Reduction of Diabetes Among Hispanics, all New Yorkers a Goal of Governor Paterson's Obesity Prevention Agenda

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb.12, 2009) – Governor David A. Paterson's new Obesity Prevention Agenda is aimed at reducing and preventing childhood obesity and related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, addressing a public health crisis that is especially severe among the Hispanic population in New York State.

The Governor's five-point plan includes:

  • Instituting a new revolving loan fund to increase healthy food markets in underserved communities;
  • Banning trans fats in restaurants;
  • Banning junk food sales in schools;
  • Requiring calorie posting in chain restaurants; and
  • Placing a sales tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

In addition, First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson has launched a "Healthy Steps to Albany: First Lady's Challenge" to encourage school children to engage in daily fitness activities.

"One of the most worrisome health projections is the large number of obese children in New York State who, without intervention, will become obese adults – many of whom will suffer from diabetes," said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "Governor Paterson's obesity prevention agenda is the right plan at the right time to address the epidemic of childhood obesity."

The statistics on obesity are a cause for alarm:

  • Among children ages 2 to 5 in New York, 20.1 percent of Hispanic children are obese, compared with 13.8 percent of African Americans and 12.4 percent of whites.
  • Among high school students, the rates of obesity are 13.1 percent for Hispanic students,12.9 percent for African Americans, and 10.1 percent for whites.
  • Statewide more than 60 percent of the adult population is considered overweight or obese.

Obesity has been linked to higher rates of many preventable chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, hypertension, and some cancers. Historically, type 2 diabetes has usually occurred in adulthood, but health care providers are now seeing cases of type 2 diabetes among children due to the increased rates of childhood obesity.

Obesity disproportionately affects Hispanic children, who "present the largest rates of overweight and obesity, and consequently have a greater risk to develop type 2 diabetes," according to a recent article in Conciencia News, a publication funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

The article cited overconsumption of sugar and poor nutrition as major factors contributing to obesity among Hispanic children. The article stated: "This is often due to the lack of knowledge by the parents about what a healthy diet for their children should look like, and so they might even eat every day products with a high content of sugar like cereals and ice cream."

Overconsumption of sugar is a major contributing factor to childhood obesity. A study reported in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (How Discretionary Can We Be with Sweetened Beverages?) concluded: "Only one high-risk dietary practice emerged as being linked to overweight in children: intake of sweetened beverages."

To discourage over consumption of sweetened beverages and help reduce obesity, Governor Paterson has proposed an 18 percent tax on non-diet sodas and other beverages containing large amounts of sugar. The tax is projected to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by 5 percent and generate $404 million in revenue for public health prevention programs.

Research has shown that for each additional 12-ounce soft drink a child consumes per day, his or her risk of becoming obese increases by 60 percent. The amount of soda (non-diet and diet) consumed weekly by Americans has doubled from five cans to 11 cans since 1970. The increase in non-diet soda consumption contributes 13 pounds of extra sugar ingested per person per year.

The state Health Department has taken additional steps to reduce childhood obesity, including implementing key changes to the food package provided to low-income women and children through the federal WIC program.

The new WIC food package includes a reduction in the fat content of the foods provided, an increase in fiber content, and an increase in vegetables and fruits, with cash value vouchers for fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables provided year round. The WIC package also includes special incentives for nursing mothers. Breastfeeding your baby protects against obesity in early childhood and later in life.

More information about preventing obesity and diabetes is available at the following New York State Department of Health Websites:

More information about the new WIC food package is available at: