Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today encouraged New Yorkers to help fight obesity during this year’s 20th anniversary of National Public Health Week, which begins today, April 6. Obesity, the second leading cause of preventable death in the nation, has also reached epidemic levels in New York State. Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker will lead a tour throughout the state visiting organizations working on community-wide initiatives that address obesity and lack of physical activity.

“Obesity remains a challenging public health issue in New York State, and today we are taking new steps to help fight this epidemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “Fighting obesity starts with learning about healthy food choices and engaging in physical activity, and this week we are highlighting this message in communities across the state as part of our efforts to build a healthier New York.”

In addition to the statewide tour, the state Department of Health will also be providing health tips through social media under the hash tag #GetFitNYS. For more information on ways to stay fit and eat healthy visit:http://www.health.ny.gov/GetFitNYS.

In New York State, 25.4 percent of adults are obese and another 35.9 percent are overweight, affecting an estimated 8.7 million people. Overweight and obesity affect 40 percent of New York City public school students aged 6-12 yearsand 32 percent of students throughout the rest of the state.

Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Staying active in your golden years isn’t only important in fighting obesity, it contributes to better overall health through improved strength, balance and coordination. By combining opportunities for physical activity with resources that help build a more nutritious diet, Club 99 is giving Erie County’s seniors the tools they need to continue living healthy and independent lives.”

Obesity and overweight can cause serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, several forms of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Not only have some of these diseases become increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents, but they have also led to New York being ranked second among states for medical expenditures attributable to obesity. Expenditures totaled $11.1 billion in 2009 with $4 billion financed by Medicaid and $2.7 billion financed by Medicare. This evidence supports the strong focus on obesity reduction efforts in the Prevention Agenda 2013-17, the state’s health improvement plan.

Since causes of obesity are complex and occur at social, economic, environmental and individual levels, there is no single solution sufficient to turn the tide on this epidemic. Successful prevention efforts require multiple strategies, such as national, state and local policies and environmental changes that support healthy eating and active living and reach large numbers of children and adults.

New York State invests significant resources to reduce obesity using evidence-based public health approaches. Through the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Initiative, the Department of Health will provide $6.7 million annually to 25 partners and projects throughout the state which promote sustainability and healthy behaviors in underserved communities. This includes everything from providing access to healthy and affordable foods in schools to finding opportunities to promote physical activity through complete streets policies.

In addition, this investment will fund a Center for Excellence to provide education and training to the 25 local agencies to assist them in using the most effective strategies to accomplish their work in implementing this initiative.

For additional information on the Department’s current obesity prevention programs and activities, including efforts by community partners to create healthy places to live, work and play, visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/GetFitNYS

Many organizations are already on the ground in communities working to promote healthy behaviors and Dr. Zucker will be participating in several of their events throughout Public Health Week. The schedule is as follows:

Dr. Zucker Joins Members of Club 99 to Highlight Importance of Exercise and Activity for Seniors
Today, April 6
1:00 p.m.
The William Emslie YMCA
585 William St
Buffalo, NY 14206

Dr. Zucker Joins with Syracuse University Athletes and Local Youth to Highlight Importance of Physical Activity and Sports Safety for Children
Tuesday, April 7
10:30 a.m.
Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc.
Southwest Community Center
401 South Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13204

Dr. Zucker Joins with Community Members to Highlight the Impact of Healthy Foods on Public Health
Wednesday, April 8
10:30 a.m.
Capital Roots
8th Street at Hutton Street
Troy, NY 12180

Dr. Zucker Participates in Long Island Health Collaborative’s Long Island Walks Event
Thursday, April 9
10:00 a.m.
Belmont Lake State Park
Southern State Parkway Exit 38
North Babylon, NY 11704

Dr. Zucker Joins with Members of Helen Hayes Hospital’s Adapted Sports Program to Highlight Importance of Physical Activity for People with Disabilities and Traumatic Injuries
Friday, April 10
1:00 p.m.
Helen Hayes Hospital
51 Route 9W N
West Haverstraw, NY 10993

First declared in 1995, National Public Health Week is an initiative of the American Public Health Association. It brings communities from all corners of the country together during the first full week of April to recognize the importance of public health policies and highlight issues that are vital to the overall health of the nation.

For more information, visit http://www.nphw.org/.