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Officials Discuss State’s Obesity Problem

By | January 25, 2012

State public health workers from across the state came together for three days of discussions in Anchorage this week on all facets of how Alaskans can be healthier.

One of the most significant health problems we’re facing as a state is obesity. Like much of the nation, the numbers of those who are overweight or obese are climbing rapidly here.

Brit Szymoniak is the survey manager for the section of women, children and family health within the state division of public health. She says more than 44 percent of Alaska women who had babies in 2010 were overweight or obese before becoming pregnant. And even more alarming is the percentage of obese young children.

Karol Fink is the program manager for the state’s obesity prevention and control program. She says obesity has doubled in Alaska in the past 20 years. And all that extra weight is expensive.

It’s the usual suspects, lack of adequate exercise, poor diet and too many sugary beverages. Fink says limiting the access of cheap soda in schools, at work places and fund raising events is one change that other states have found helpful in fighting the epidemic of obesity. She says nearly 80% of health costs are due to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Knowing why people are getting fatter is a start, but Fink says it will take an all out effort to turn it around.

She says outreach to health care providers is another avenue to insure that just like educating smokers about the dangers of tobacco abuse, educating Alaskans about the dangers of being overweight becomes part of the consultation during visits to the doctor.

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