News Release

November 14, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Childhood Obesity Expected to Dramatically Increase Connecticut's Health Care Burden

New Report by UConn Researchers Finds Disturbing Trends

FARMINGTON, CONN. – One-quarter of Connecticut’s school children are considered to be overweight, the problem being the greatest among the urban poor. How the state will confront the crisis and handle the future burden to its health and social service system is the subject of a report by the UConn Graduate Program in Public Health. The results of the project will be released on Wednesday, November 16, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

“What we found the most startling is the severity of the problem, that is, the number of children suffering from adult diseases because they are obese or overweight,” said Luce Buhl, a graduate student in Public Health and one of 25 students who worked on the project.

“Another surprising finding was the link between maternal/pre-natal health and childhood obesity,“ said graduate student Katie Zito. “Children conceived by women of an average weight, rather than overweight, have a lower likelihood of becoming obese, and breast feeding also reduces a child’s risk for obesity,” added Zito.

The graduate students worked alongside and in partnership with more than 130 community-based organizations for nearly a year in pursuit of three questions:

1) Can the present and future burden of childhood obesity be estimated for Connecticut?

2) What is the current capacity of the state’s health and social services system to halt the crisis we confront today?

3) Can new policy and regulatory strategies be put forth to reduce the severity and scope of the problem?

“The growing rate of obesity poses a difficult public health challenge for our state in the future,” said Zito. In Connecticut, $492 million in Medicare and Medicaid spending can be attributed to health problems caused by or related to obesity. If present trends continue, strains on the health care systems are unavoidable. The report makes several recommendations to help reverse the growing trend:

  • Increase the availability of healthy food for sale at schools, including prohibiting the sale of soda
  • Set higher standards for exercise curricula in school systems
  • Fully fund childhood obesity programs
  • Collect, report and monitor BMI (body mass index) data for all school-aged children

Buhl said parents can do their part by encouraging their children to eat healthier and be physically active through activities that involve movement over sedentary hobbies. “If your kids can’t go outside to play, get a jump rope or turn on some music and dance!”

The agenda:
8:30 a.m.
Light refreshments

9:00 a.m.
Welcome and Project Overview
David Gregorio, Ph.D., Director, Graduate Program in Public Health
Sen. Donald Williams, President Pro Tempore, CT General Assembly

9:15 a.m.
Childhood Obesity Prevention in Connecticut
Christine Parker, CT Department of Public Health
Jennifer Kertanis, Executive Director, CT Association of Directors of Health

9:30 a.m.
Halting Child Obesity in Connecticut – Report Summary
The Problem’s Scope: Katie Zito
Connecticut’s Burden: Anthony Paquette, MPH
Obesity’s Causes: Susan Roman, RN
Connecticut’s Capacity for Action: Luce Buhl
Legislative and Non-Legislative Options: Katie Zito

10:20 a.m.
Next Steps --- Call for Action
Pamela Meliso, JD

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