State Offers Massive Blueprint to Fight Obesity, Seeks Comment From Public

MacIver News Service | June 19, 2012

[Madison, Wisc…] Is it a smart plan that promotes public health, or a governmental overreach toward the nanny state?

The public will have a month to provide input on a draft of the 2012-2020 Wisconsin Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity State Plan, officials announced Tuesday.

“Obesity is a significant problem in Wisconsin, especially because it contributes to chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer,” said Karen McKeown, Wisconsin Division of Public Health Administrator. “We have worked with our partners to develop a draft plan to address the causes of obesity and are now seeking input from traditional and non-traditional partners and individuals statewide.”

The draft State Plan was developed by state public health officials over the last several years and is a follow up to the first State Plan, released in 2005. This first State Plan focused on building the state and local capacity to address overweight and obesity through evidence- based or practice-based strategies.

According to the 124-page draft, this second edition “will build on this strong foundation with a comprehensive, statewide effort capable of impacting all residents through policy, environmental and systems change.”

The State Plan includes physical activity guidelines for children and adults and targets what it refers to as five key behavior areas, which include:

  • Increase physical activity
  • Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Decrease the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages
  • Increase breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity
  • Reduce the consumption of high energy dense foods

The State Plan envisions using existing public health programs, public schools and community organizations to achieve their objectives.

By next year, the State Plan strives to “develop a scientific advisory group to provide recommendations about evidence-based frameworks, methods, and measures across relevant disciplines, to foster the development of an aligned systems approach to obesity prevention throughout the state.”

By 2016, the State Plan calls for a baseline long-term funding plan for coordinated statewide obesity prevention efforts of more than $800,000 a year.

Some other 2016 Objectives in the State Plan include:

  • Increase the percentage of schools implementing a non-traditional service model for breakfast, specifically breakfast in the classroom and universal free from 35% to 50%.
  • Decrease the percent of Wisconsin middle and high schools that offer sugar-sweetened beverages as competitive foods from 73% to 62%.
  • Decrease the percent of Wisconsin middle and high schools that allow advertising of less healthy foods and beverages from 57% to 30%.
  • Increase the percentage of K-12 public schools using the Wisconsin Physical Education (PE) standards to 95%. (Baseline = 88%)
  • Increase the number of local bike/pedestrian committees by 50%. Committees should assist with development of community plans to increase active transportation options. (Baseline = 10. Goal is 15)
  • Increase the number of environmental and policy changes implemented by coalitions addressing nutrition, physical activity and breastfeeding by 50%. (Baseline = 34, goal is 51)Increase the number of school districts/ communities that have Safe Routes to School programs by 20%. (Baseline = 350. Goal is 420)
  • Increase the number of Wisconsin communities with farmers’ markets from 213 to 224 and CSA farms from 199 to 210, and community gardens in Wisconsin from 106 to 117 with an emphasis on reducing disparities in access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Increase the number of local governments that have a policy encouraging the production, distribution, and procurement of food from local farms within the local jurisdiction by 5%. (Baseline will be established in 2012)
  • Increase the number of Wisconsin communities with access to full-scale supermarkets and other healthy food outlets, with an emphasis on reducing disparities in access to affordable, healthful foods from 60% to 65%.
  • Increase the number of eight-ounce servings of safe, potable drinking water (from a municipal water supply or private well) consumed daily by Wisconsin adults from 6.4 to 8.
  • Increase the proportion of primary care physicians who regularly measure the body mass index of their patients. (Baseline will be established in 2012)
  • Increase the proportion of physician office visits made by adult patients who are obese that include counseling or education related to weight reduction, nutrition, or physical activity. (Baseline will be established in 2012)

In 2003, the Division of Public Health was awarded funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for obesity prevention. This funding was designed to build capacity within Wisconsin to prevent and control obesity and related chronic diseases. In the first five-year grant period (2003-2008), staff were hired and the 2005 plan was drafted and implemented In 2008, the program was awarded a second 5-year grant with additional funding to continue and expand efforts through 2013.

The State Plan is now available for review on the Department of Health Services (DHS) website, here. 

The Department is seeking input on all aspects of the plan, but is interested specifically in comments on these topics:

  • The role of the individual and family in the plan. 
  • What role should individuals play in their own health? 
  • What role should individuals play in improving the health of their communities?
  • Level of evidence that supports the recommendations.
  • Feasibility of recommended actions and goals.
  • Where new regulations are proposed, do the benefits outweigh the costs? Do they focus on outcome objectives or process objectives
  • Could non-regulatory approaches achieve similar outcomes?
  • Are there government policies that have an adverse impact on sound nutrition?

Click here
to send comments to the Department.