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A Systematic Strategy to Fight NJ’s Obesity Epidemic

Recommendations to Be Shared at December Conference

November 2012 - For Immediate Release

Obesity prevention experts from around the country will gather for an all-day conference on Tuesday, December 11 to present the latest research and innovative techniques used in the battle against obesity. The conference will take place from 9 am to 4 pm at the Hilton in East Brunswick.

This year’s conference – Obesity Prevention in New Jersey | The State of the State: Important Next Steps – focuses on a systemic approach to combating obesity, with strategies that can be implemented in school, workplace, community and early childcare settings.

Obesity conference participants get active with stretching exercises.

Participants literally walk the walk, doing some light exercise during the obesity prevention conference.

The event is jointly sponsored by Shaping NJ at the New Jersey Department of Health; New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids / NJ YMCA State Alliance; Family and Community Health Sciences at Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at Rutgers University.

The conference is geared towards on-the-ground professionals and individuals who can implement the recommendations across the different settings. They include health educators, health care providers, dieticians, teachers, school nurses, food service providers, PE teachers, early care educators and parents. The conference has been approved for continuing education credits for many of these professions.

The rising tide of obesity is real threat to New Jersey. Over 23% of NJ adults are obese and over 10% of all children are obese. More seriously, over 17% of New Jersey’s toddlers (age 2-4 years) are obese, putting the garden state among the 10 worst states for that age group.

Keynote speaker, Terry T-K Huang, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at UNMC College of Public Health, will share his systems approach to obesity prevention and provide a Call to Action for New Jersey at the conclusion of the day-long program. Dr. Huang is a member of the White House Healthy Kids Working Group and Senior Advisor to the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research.

The afternoon speaker, Marlene Schwartz, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, will discuss community level efforts to improve the nutritional environment for children. Co-chair of Connecticut’s Obesity Task Force, Dr. Schwartz’s research addresses how home environments, school landscapes, neighborhoods and the media shape eating attitudes and behaviours of children.

The conference’s morning workshops will feature more than a dozen distinguished professionals representing the USDA, CDC, NJ Department of Agriculture, NJ Department of Children and Families, NACCHO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Employers Association of New Jersey, NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids, Nemours Health and Prevention Services and Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Obesity conference organizer Kathleen Morgan

Obesity conference organizer, Kathleen Morgan, Chair of the Rutgers Department of Family and Community Health Sciences.


NJ Adult Obesity Rates

  • Prior to 1996, less than 15% of New Jersey citizens were considered obese (Body Mass Index of 30 or greater).
  • By 2004, NJ passed the 20% mark.
  • In 2011, 23.5% of New Jerseyans are obese and a staggering 60.7% are overweight, with a Body Mass Index of 25 or greater.

NJ Child Obesity Rates

  • In 2011, 10.3% of NJ adolescents and 17.3% of young children (ages 2 through 4) are obese.

Costs Associated With Obesity (nationwide)

  • Medical care costs of obesity totaled $147 billion in 2008.
  • Annual medical costs for obese people was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight in 2008.

How Obesity Affects Groups (nationwide)

  • Among adults, obesity affects some groups more than others. Non-hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates (49.5%) compared to Mexican Americans (40.4%), all Hispanics (39.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (34.4%).
  • There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend – those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared to less educated women.
  • There are even more significant ethnic and racial disparities in obesity rates among kids. In 2007-2008:
    • Hispanic boys, age 2 to 19, were significantly more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white boys
    • Non-Hispanic black girls were more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white girls.
  • Low-income, preschool-aged children are disproportionately impacted; 1 in 7 is obese.