Governor Paterson Announces $2.5 Million Grant to Create Statewide Coalition and Center for Obesity Prevention, Healthy Eating and Active Living

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 19, 2010) - Governor David A. Paterson announced today that the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has been selected to establish a statewide coalition for obesity prevention; conduct policy research; and provide training and technical assistance to the coalition and staff, contractors and partners of the New York State Department of Health around obesity prevention, healthy eating and active living.

The coalition and center to be funded under this initiative and established by NYAM will help communities create healthy environments so New Yorkers can easily walk and play, and buy fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Chosen through a Request for Proposals process, NYAM will receive $500,000 annually for five years.

"By eating a healthy diet and being physically active, people can achieve healthy weights and reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers," Governor Paterson said. "We are proud to work with the New York Academy of Medicine to make New Yorkers healthier through better diet, an environment conducive to exercise, and access to grocery stores that offer more nutritious items such as fresh fruits and vegetables."

Obesity is strongly related to sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition and is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases. In both New York and across the nation, obesity has epidemic proportions. The percentage of obese adults in New York State has increased from 14 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2008 and, nationally, obesity among children and adolescents has tripled over the past three decades. In fact, obesity costs New York State more than $7.6 billion annually in direct medical expenditures for treatment of related diseases, as well as indirect costs such as lost productivity. Poor nutrition, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, physical inactivity, and television viewing can contribute to excess weight gain in children and adults.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in New York State, killing almost 59,000 residents each year. Diabetes is the most rapidly growing chronic disease, affecting one out of every 12 adult New Yorkers.

"Research clearly shows that people who eat diets high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains and low in sodium, saturated fat and sugar are healthier than those eating less healthful diets ," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. Similarly, physically active people have better health than those who are sedentary. Eating a healthful diet and getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity over the course of a week can reduce risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, depression, and some cancers.

Studies show that changing the environment helps people change their health behaviors. In neighborhoods that are "walkable" and have parks, people are more physically active. Residents who have access to grocery stores and their supply of fruits and vegetables are able to make healthy food choices.

"The New York Academy of Medicine is honored to work with the Governor's Office and the Commissioner of Health to address the serious epidemic of overweight and obesity affecting millions of adults and children across the state," said NYAM President Jo Ivey Boufford. "We have a long history of promoting population- and community-based approaches to health improvement. The  Coalition and Center funded under this initiative will bring together representatives from public health, civic leadership, the health care community, researchers, legislators and the media to  assure that communities have the tools they need to create  environments  that make it easier for people to make healthy choices about exercise and diet.  We look forward to this exciting and important work."

For more information on preventing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases please visit the state Health Department's Web site at www.nyhealth.gov. To learn more about The New York Academy of Medicine, please visit their website at www.nyam.org or call Andrew J. Martin, Director of Communications at (212) 822-7285 or amartin@nyam.org.