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Obesity hearings set stage for statewide change

SPRINGFIELD –Illinois officials are working to control the state’s obesity problem by hosting three public hearings statewide.

Illinois has the highest number of overweight or obese children covered under public insurance plans in the nation – or 56 percent of children receiving state-funded health insurance, according to findings by the Obesity Prevention Initiative Act.

The first of three public hearings focusing on the human and social costs of obesity in Illinois launched Feb. 26 in Chicago and the second will follow March 8 in Springfield.

The hearings are being conducted by the state Department of Public Health and are open to everyone, public health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.



The hearings have been required by a 2009 state law, the Obesity Prevention Initiative Act, intended to help develop a statewide approach to handle Illinois' growing obesity problem.

Some research highlighted in the act:

– More than 31 percent of Illinois children between 10 and 17 years old are either obese or overweight.

– The economic costs associated with treating obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, liver and gallbladder diseases, sleep apnea and respiratory problems now account for more than 9 percent of total health care costs. About half those costs are picked up by the taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid and the rest come at the expense of employers.

– People who are obese have more injuries and more nonproductive work days.

– 27 percent of health care charges for adults over age 40 are associated with being obese, overweight or physically inactive.

Attending the hearings are parents, educators, nutritionists, physical activity professionals and representatives of schools, chambers of commerce, employers, local governments, health care providers, local health departments and health issue organizations.

Following the hearings, a report is due by the end of July, Arnold said. Eventually, the state law dictates, the Department of Public Health will award money to one or more nonprofit organizations or local health departments to conduct a statewide education campaign on the health and social costs of obesity and the need to make community, policy and individual behavior changes.

Future hearing times and locations:

* March 8: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Illinois Department of Agriculture auditorium, 801 Sangamon Ave., Gate 11, Springfield.

* March 15, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Carbondale City Hall Civic Center, 200 S. Illinois Ave., Room 108, Carbondale.

Can't attend in person? Comments are also being accepted through March 15 via e-mail at (Make sure "Obesity Initiative" is in the subject line.)

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