Groups Say Health Choices Maintain Progress

Stephanie Carson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida now has the 14th lowest adult obesity rate in the country, according to the most recent State of Obesity report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

It’s a ray of light for the Sunshine State, but the ranking still means more than 26 percent of Florida adults are obese.

Accessing nutritious foods is a challenge for many Florida families, and some experts say the problem contributes to the obesity epidemic.

That’s why businesses in the food industry and various organizations are stepping up to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Drew Nannis, chief marketing officer at Partnership for a Healthier America, says some Florida restaurants, food suppliers, community groups and colleges are among those increasing access to healthy food.

“We want to make sure that it’s as easy as possible getting rid of the barriers such as time, cost and other issues that may be there that prevent people from making the healthier option,” he says. “We believe that people know what the healthier option is, we just need to make it as readily available as possible.”

The changes include increasing affordability, adding vegetables and fruits to restaurant menus and adopting programs promoting nutrition and physical activity.

Walgreens and Walmart are among those involved in the program.

According to the State of Obesity report, the obesity rates in children age two to four declined slightly from 2008 to 2011, with the rate now at 13.1 percent.

Nannis says recent signs suggest a leveling off of what had been an escalating rate of obesity for quite some time. The partnership’s goal is to bring it down to 5 percent because, Nannis says, childhood obesity leads to a multitude of health problems.

“It’s everything from an economic issue where people are having to take sick days and productivity drops to a national security issue,” he explains. “A quarter of the people who are volunteering for our armed services are actually too heavy to serve. So this is a wide-reaching epidemic.”

At the Building a Healthier Future Summit in last week, national health experts, policymakers and business and industry leaders brainstormed new strategies to help end childhood obesity.