California Nutrition Network Celebrates 10 Years Of Fighting The State’s ‘Battle Of The Bulge’

Celebrating the efforts of more
than 160 agencies from Eureka to San Diego that support low-income
Californians in adopting healthy eating and regular exercise, nutrition and
physical activity leaders met today and strategized how to reduce obesity
rates in California.

At the meeting, which was organized by the California Nutrition Network
for Healthy, Active Families (Network), participants discussed two key
goals for 2010: doubling the percentage of adults who eat the recommended
daily amount of five servings of fruits and vegetables to 70 percent; and
doubling the percentage of adults who get 30 minutes or more of daily
physical activity five or more days each week to 70 percent. In 2001, 34
percent of California adults achieved each of these goals.

To meet this challenge, state health officials met with more than 675
individuals to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Network and focus on
ways to reach all Californians and educate them about the key ingredients
to a healthy lifestyle that can help prompt social change and influence an
overall healthier population.

“One of the Network’s greatest achievements in its first 10 years has
been its ability to raise awareness of the link between diet, physical
activity and good health,” said Kimberly Belshe, secretary of the
California Health and Human Services Agency. “With more Californians
falling victim to the effects of obesity every day, it’s critical that our
next 10 years succeed in reducing obesity by giving Californians tools to
help change the way they eat, play and live.”

Obesity and overweight is a top public health concern, quality of life
and economic problem in California. More than half of California adults are
overweight or obese, and 38 percent of California children ages 9 to 11 are
overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Also, nearly 74 percent of
youth are unfit, and only 40 percent of teens meet minimum daily targets
for physical activity.

“Collectively, the state has gained 360 million pounds over the last
decade,” said Belshe. “If California is to begin losing these pounds, bold,
decisive action is needed — by individuals and families, business,
community and government — to promote an environment that encourages
healthy eating, regular physical activity and responsible individual

Improving dietary practices and physical activity are at the core of
the Network’s efforts and are proven strategies for preventing many of the
chronic diseases that account for more than 75 percent of medical costs in
the United States. Physical inactivity, overweight and obesity are
projected to cost California more than $28 billion in 2005.

Almost a decade ago, the Network released the results of its first
survey, the California Dietary Practices Survey, which analyzed the dietary
practices of California adults between 1989 and 1997 and found that many
did not consume the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Recent data gathered from the California Dietary Practices Survey
demonstrate that the Network’s evidence-based programs are working. Data
gathered between 1999 and 2003 show that food stamp nutrition interventions
are positively associated with both increased fruit and vegetable
consumption and increased physical activity among children from food stamp
households. The interventions are also positively associated with increased
fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income adults.

“The Network has made important strides in confronting poor nutrition
and physical inactivity among California’s low-income population,” said
Sandra Shewry, director of the California Department of Health Services.
“We are building upon the impact and progress we’ve made so far, working to
empower every Californian to live healthy and stay physically active.”

A wide range of social, economic and environmental factors affect food
and physical activity choices for low-income families and less-educated
populations, making them more susceptible to obesity and overweight. To
combat the scope and complexity of the problem, the Network employs a
two-pronged approach: support nutrition education programs, such as the
California 5 a Day Campaign, and engage Network partners to pursue
community-level changes that improve access to fruits and vegetables,
increase access to healthy foods in underserved communities and create safe
places to engage in physical activity.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has outlined a forward-reaching vision
for a healthy California, a vision that challenges all Californians to make
the state a national model for healthy living.

The Governor has initiated several statewide and national efforts to
raise awareness about the obesity epidemic in California, including:

— Signing legislation to make the state’s school nutrition standards the
most progressive in the nation, extending the ban of sugary soft drinks
in elementary and middle schools to high schools and investing more
than $18 million to put more fruits and vegetables into California

— Providing $40 million in his 2006-07 budget for incentive grants to
hire more credentialed physical education teachers in elementary and
middle schools and $500 million in grants for schools to purchase
physical education, arts and/or music equipment.

— Convening a Summit on Health, Nutrition and Obesity last September that
brought together leaders and experts from the business, education,
government and public health communities to address how individual
groups can contribute toward reducing obesity in California. At the
Summit, the Governor unveiled his bold vision for a healthy California.
Also, businesses and community groups answered the Governor’s challenge
by announcing changes in business practices so Californians would have
healthier options and more opportunities for physical activity.

Lastly, a key theme emerging from the Governor’s Summit on Health Care
Affordability held last month is that prevention and wellness are
essential. A diverse array of state and national leaders in health care,
business and advocacy who represent a wide spectrum of viewpoints on health
care all agreed that to make health care more affordable, the state must
focus more on wellness, prevention and early intervention.

Further improvements to improve access to fruits and vegetables are
reflected in the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed changes
to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program’s food package offered to
low-income pregnant women and young children. Currently, the food package
consists of eggs, milk, cheese, cereal, legumes and juice. New changes,
scheduled to take effect next year, include adding fruits and vegetables
and whole-grain products to the food packages for the first time.

The Network works with more than 300 different public, non-profit and
business partners throughout the state to empower low-income Californians
to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and enjoy
physical activity every day. For more information, log on to the Network’s
Web site at ca5aday.

California Department of Health Services

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