Why It's Time to Focus on Obesity
Although Massachusetts compares favorably to most other states, overweight and obesity are still major public health problems in the Commonwealth. Consider these facts:
- More than half of the adults and almost one-third of high school and middle school students in Massachusetts are overweight or obese.
- In Massachusetts, between 2003 and 2007, Black adults were 60% more likely to be obese, and Hispanic adults were 50% more likely to be obese than their White counterparts.
- More than two-thirds of adults in Massachusetts are not eating the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- Only 15% of high school and middle school students in Massachusetts report eating the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
- In the past ten years, the percentage of adults in Massachusetts with diabetes has almost doubled (3.8% in 1998 vs. 7.4% in 2007).
- According to a 2006 CDC report, $1.8 billion of medical expenses in Massachusetts are due to adult obesity.
- Unless the numbers decrease, overweight and obesity will soon pass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the Commonwealth and in the nation.
- To learn more about the obesity problem in Massachusetts, see the Health of Massachusetts: Impact of Overweight and Obesity report (PDF) file size 1MB
file size 2MB
Elements of the Initiative
To address this significant public health problem, Massachusetts launched Mass in Motionin January 2009. Mass in Motion aims to promote wellness and to prevent overweight and obesity in Massachusetts - with a particular focus on the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.
This is a priority area of the HealthyMass Compact, which was announced by Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary JudyAnn Bigby in 2008. Mass in Motion uses a multi-faceted approach, including:
- The release of a
Call to Action file size 2MB
that documents the extent of the obesity epidemic in Massachusetts, its consequences, and efforts to combat it;
- Support for regulatory changes to promote healthy diet and exercise, including Body Mass Index (BMI) testing of public school students in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10, and menu labeling for chain restaurants operating in Massachusetts.
- An requiring state agencies responsible for large-scale food purchasing (e.g., DPH and DMH hospitals) to follow healthy nutritional guidelines in their food service operations. State purchases of food by these agencies run into the tens of millions of dollars per year;
- Grants to cities and towns to make wellness initiatives a priority at the community level. Funding for these grants comes from five major health-funding foundations and other leading health organizations in the Commonwealth;
- The expansion of a state-sponsored Workplace Wellness program to help employers create work environments that encourage healthy behaviors and reduce absenteeism and health insurance costs;
- The launch of a state-sponsored Mass in Motion web site that promotes eating better and moving more at home, work, and in the community. The objective of the website is to provide simple, practical, cost-effective ways for Massachusetts residents to:
- Improve eating habits
- Increase physical activity
- Ask experts questions about improving their diet and physical exercise routine
- Get involved in helping to build healthy communities
Mass In Motion is the first statewide health initiative to be supported by all of the Commonwealth's major health-funding foundations. The following partners have generously agreed to contribute funding that will allow for community wellness grants to be awarded throughout Massachusetts:
Policy Change and Prevention: Investing in Healthy Residents and the Continued Success of Health Care Reform
Massachusetts has made great strides in insuring many of the state's residents -- 98% according to the latest data. Mass in Motion continues efforts by the Patrick Administration to implement innovative public policy programs to support the success of Health Care Reform. Health care spending to manage obesity-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes has skyrocketed over the last two decades. The policy changes and prevention strategies supported b y Mass in Motion will contribute to the long-term health of our residents and the continued success of our groundbreaking Health Care Reform law by reducing the impact of overweight and obesity - major risk factors for chronic disease.
Every area of the Commonwealth that has been impacted by the overweight and obesity epidemic, but many communities and agencies are already engaged in important efforts to turn the tide in Massachusetts. Mass in Motion creates a new framework to better coordinate and support many of the existing initiatives in our state. It offers a platform from which to learn and share many of the best practices that are being developed right here in Massachusetts and across the nation.