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Indianapolis, Ind. — Today, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H. made a stop at Douglass Park in Indianapolis on his nationwide tour to promote the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative.

The “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” initiative focuses on recognizing and showcasing those communities throughout the nation that are addressing childhood overweight and obesity prevention by helping kids stay active, encouraging healthy eating habits, and promoting healthy choices.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to visit communities across the country, like Indianapolis, and meet first-hand with those actively engaged in finding ways to prevent childhood overweight and obesity,” said Dr. Galson. “It is so good to hear of the progress being made here in Indiana to reduce the burden of obesity and prevent obesity in children.”

Dr. Galson presented awards to Indianapolis Public Schools Howe Academy’s “PE4life” program and the Lawrence Township School Foundation’s “My Community Gets Health” program for their efforts to fight childhood obesity by encouraging physical activity.

Howe Academy has a state of the art fitness center with cardio bikes, cross trainers, and a treadmill. The “PE4life” program encourages students to be physically active through physical education classes and after school activities. “My Community Gets Health” strives to offer a comprehensive, scalable, sustainable fitness and wellness program for students and parents. It includes the “Up and Running” program, a nationally recognized, structured marathon training program that culminated this year with students participating in the Geist Half Marathon on May 17.

Dr. Galson was joined by State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D., who discussed the status of obesity in Indiana and announced a five-year grant award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for statewide nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention efforts. In the first year, the State Department of Health’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity will receive $435,000, which will be used to develop capacity and infrastructure needed for the work that will be completed in years 2 to 5.

According to Dr. Monroe, for the third year in a row the rate of adult obesity in Indiana has remained constant. In fact, between 2006 and 2007, Indiana’s state ranking for obesity dropped from 10th to 21st in the nation. In comparison, 78 percent of states reported increases in adult obesity rates between 2006 and 2007. Indiana was one of the few states who did not have an increase in adult obesity. The percent of obese adults in Indiana nearly doubled between 1990 and 2005.

“Good leadership is vital to addressing the epidemic of obesity in Indiana and across the nation,” said Dr. Monroe. “Under the leadership of Gov. Mitch Daniels and his INShape Indiana health initiative, we are beginning to see some positive changes. We have taken an important first step towards reducing the burden of obesity in Indiana – slowing the tidal wave. The challenge now is to build on the progress we’ve made.”

According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, there is an increase in the percent of high school students who were physically active for a total of at least 60 mins/day most days of the week. In addition, the percent of Indiana high school students who watched three or more hours per day of TV on an average school day is decreasing.

“None of the positive behavior changes we’ve seen in young people would be possible without the grassroots support of local communities and schools like the Indianapolis Public Schools and the Lawrence Township School Foundation,” said Dr. Monroe.

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, between 2005 and 2007 there was a significant decrease in the percentage of adult Hoosiers who are inactive. In particular, there was a substantial increase in physical activity among Indiana adults aged 35 to 44 (from 71.3 percent to 81.2 percent).

“We hope to see even more positive behavioral changes in adults and to see additional improvements in the eating habits of all Hoosiers,” said Dr. Monroe. “An important step in making that possible is having support on the federal level and the leadership of federal officials like Dr. Galson.”

Additional information on the Surgeon General’s Initiative can be found online at: www.surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention.html.

Source: Indiana State Department of Health

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