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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 05, 2007

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160
Tom Slater
(609) 984-7160


 
Departments of Health, Agriculture and Education Kickoff Statewide Public Awareness Campaign -- Focus on Childhood Obesity, Second-Hand Smoke --


 

The New Jersey Departments of Health and Senior Services, Education and Agriculture are joining forces for a three-month public awareness campaign that focuses on the top two preventable causes of death in the country -- childhood obesity and second-hand smoking.

Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, NJ Department of Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus and Dept. of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy kicked off the initiative at today’s State Board of Education business meeting at the Riverview Plaza in Trenton.

“Keeping our children healthy is a primary goal of my administration,” said Governor Jon S. Corzine.  “This cooperative initiative of the Departments of Health, Agriculture and Education will help to deliver the message that childhood obesity and second-hand smoke and the diseases associated with them are highly avoidable.”

Through November, Commissioner Jacobs and Secretary Kuperus will be speaking to more than two dozen organizations, including community groups, medical students, teachers, parents, physicians and school children to raise awareness of both childhood obesity and the health effects of second-hand smoke.

“These are two health issues that we as a society can control and directly effect the health of our families, our neighbors and our communities,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “And most important, these two issues have a direct effect on the health our children. Along with Secretary Kuperus and Commissioner Davy, I will be speaking at many organizations to help raise awareness on childhood obesity and second-hand smoking.”

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic effects not only in New Jersey but around the country as well. In the last 25 years, the rate of overweight children and teens has more than doubled. In adolescents it has more than tripled over the same period. A 2004 study conducted jointly by both the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Education found that 38 percent of sixth graders were either overweight or obese.

In addition, several obesity-related conditions—such as Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure—once seen almost exclusively in adults—are now being seen with increasing frequency in children.

This fall, in an effort to combat childhood obesity and improve overall health, all New Jersey public schools are required to implement the most comprehensive school nutrition policy in the nation. The Department of Agriculture's Model School Nutrition Policy must be in place by the end of September and promotes fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and whole grains and bans foods of minimal nutritional value, including candy.  Elementary schools can offer only milk, water or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices and at least 60 percent of the beverages offered by middle- and high-schools must be 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices.

          “The Department of Agriculture’s comprehensive school nutrition policy is only one part of what needs to be a holistic approach to abating the childhood obesity problem,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Through our partnership with the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Education, we can enlist the help of teachers, parents, grandparents and the community in getting children to Eat Right and Move More at an earlier age to assist them in growing into healthy adults.”

“Healthy children are better prepared to learn,” said Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy.  “Through our Core Curriculum Content Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.”

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHHS) has created a new Office on Nutrition and Fitness to coordinate its obesity prevention and nutrition and fitness programs and to improve access to active recreation, promote healthy communities, encourage breastfeeding.

In addition to childhood obesity, Commissioner Jacobs will be emphasizing the harmful effects of second-hand smoke to everyone, but especially children.

“There is no longer a question about the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke; there is scientific-based evidence that exposure to second-hand smoke can cause serious health problems,” said Commissioner Jacobs. “We must change the social norms about smoking around the children by providing education on the dangers of this exposure.”

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