February 23, 2004
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Groups Seek Funding for Childhood Obesity Prevention Program
Advocates and Legislators Call for $1 million Budget Add

(Albany, NY) - Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy joined several of his colleagues, and health advocates including, Paul Hartman of the American Heart Association, Teal Carpenter of the NYS School Food Services Association, Michael Bopp of the American Cancer Society, Stephen B. Sondike, MD of the Atkins Physicians Council, and representatives of the Arthritis Foundation in Albany today to call for $1 million to fund the State Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. The bill unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature in June and was signed into law by the Governor last September but he did not include funding in his proposed budget release last month.

Assemblyman Ortiz wrote a joint letter with Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Chair of the Health Committee, and Assemblyman Roger Green, Chair of the Committee on Children and Families, and 8 other Assembly colleagues requesting that the Speaker and Legislature support their funding request of $1 million in budget negotiations.

A study commissioned by the CDC found that $75 billion is spent nationally each year on obesity-related illness, half of it with public dollars through Medicaid and Medicare. It was estimated that $3.5 billion of New York's Medicaid spending is due to obesity, by far the highest level of any State.

The NYC Health Department found that nearly half of elementary-aged children are overweight. According to the NYS WIC Association over 32% of the children age 2-5 who are participating in New York State are overweight or at risk of being overweight. This leads to illnesses such as diabetes in young children. CDC research determined that one in three U.S. children born in 2000 will become diabetic in their lifetimes unless children start eating less and exercising more.

"This may be the most important public health program of the 21st Century because we are facing a growing epidemic which not only kills people today but may overwhelm our State's health and financial resources in the coming years," said Ortiz.

The Obesity Prevention Program would: develop media nutrition and physical activity promotion campaigns; implement school and community-based programs to improve nutrition and increase physical activity; coordinate obesity prevention strategies in government nutrition and recreation programs; sponsor conference on solutions to childhood obesity; provide training to medical professionals; and, track the prevalence of the problem in the State.

According to Teal Carpenter, President of the NYS School Food Service Association, "Our members have seen a tremendous change in the types of foods which children coming to our cafeterias seek for their meals and their snacks. At age five, children come to school with their food preferences firmly established. Many of the foods they seek have been highly advertised in the media. We need help advertising good food choices."

"Childhood obesity is near epidemic proportions in New York, and my generation of physicians and politicians may be judged by our ability to curb this dangerous health crisis. On behalf of the entire Atkins Physicians Council, I join with Assemblyman Ortiz, parents and advocates in support of innovative childhood obesity programs that are based on the latest scientific research in the areas of medicine, nutrition and exercise. We urge the Governor and the Legislature to work together to find the modest funding this legislation requests," stated Stephen B. Sondike, MD of the Atkins Physicians Council.

The NYS Academy of Family Physicians wrote, "We have seen first hand the significant increase in childhood obesity rates. We request funding of the State Childhood obesity Prevention Program."

Brooklyn Maimonides Hospital's Kids Weight Down Program Assistant Director, Deborah De Santis wrote, "I can vouch for the suffering that these children and families face. It is our obligation to channel as many resources as possible to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity."

"Everywhere I went in the State, rural, suburban and urban communities, we learned this is a serious problem. Obesity and diabetes are very difficult and persistent problems among adults in our society, therefore the State needs to direct resources to prevent it in childhood. Billions are spent on health care and billions are spent on advertising food; I think we can afford our request of $1 million to help reverse this epidemic." added Ortiz.

New York State Assembly
[ Welcome Page ] [ Task Force Updates ]