New York State Child Obesity Law Enacted

New Law Creates First in the Nation Child Obesity Prevention Program
October 2, 2003

(Albany, NY) – Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy joined hundreds of health and nutrition advocates across the State in celebrating the enactment of his legislation, A.2800-A/S.2045-A, to create a State childhood obesity prevention program to reduce the deadly future consequences such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

According to Ortiz, “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. I want to thank all of the physicians, parents, nutritionists, nurses, foodservice directors, teachers, physical educators and the Heart, Cancer, Diabetes, and Kidney Associations and the food industry members who supported this effort.”

This past summer the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated the following, "The obesity epidemic is the No. 1 health threat in the United States. It has all the characteristics of a mass epidemic. ... We are going to see unprecedented increases in chronic diseases if we don't get this obesity epidemic under control." The NYC Health Department found that nearly half of elementary-aged children are overweight. Nationally nearly 300,000 deaths each year are linked to obesity, close to the 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco. Over one-half million New Yorkers are diabetic and heart attacks are the leading cause of death among New York women. One in three U.S. children born in 2000 may become diabetic at some point in their lives; nearly half of black and Hispanic children are likely to develop the disease. The Cancer Society estimates that medical costs from obesity in New York are close to $4.7 billion annually and 55% of Medicaid recipients exceed a healthy weight.

According to Ortiz, “Anyone who learns of these facts should understand why it is imperative that we respond now to the most costly threat to public health in this country. These are serious health issues that we cannot ignore, not only because of the suffering of the children but also because of the toll on our health care system, our schools and our future workforce. 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. I expect the Governor will propose funding in the coming budget and I will also be advocating for dollars.”

The new law will establish a program in the New York State Department of Health to: 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.

At six public hearings around the State, Ortiz heard numerous experts who testified that childhood obesity is tied to increased consumption of snacks, soft drinks, and fast foods, and too much time in front of the TV and playing video games and not enough exercise and physical activity. Ortiz responded with his legislation.

“New York can be a model for the rest of the country and even the world because the obesity problem affects every country, every race, and every ethnic group. Everywhere I went in the State, rural, suburban and urban communities, we learned this was a serious problem. I look forward to a program that will save lives, suffering and billions of dollars. I plan to bring together my obesity advisory group to meet and make specific recommendations for program implementation.” said Ortiz.