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Copyright 2013 The Topeka Capital-Journal
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Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas)
October 1, 2013 Tuesday
615 words
Brownback urges communities to take on obesity fight
Andy Marso.

Gov. Sam Brownback urged health care advocates from across the state Monday to take a local approach to fighting obesity that focuses on incentives and events.

Brownback spoke at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center to a group of about 200 gathered for the Kansas Governor's Council of Fitness' second annual Kansas Obesity Summit.

Brownback emphasized the importance of reversing the trend line in a state in which two-thirds of the adult population is now overweight or obese.

"We're eating ourselves to death," Brownback said. "Obesity, gluttony - this is us killing ourselves."

Brownback cited conversations with billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Wal-Mart executive David Glass in outlining some possible solutions.

Brownback said Buffett once told him that the key to making public-sector or philanthropic endeavors work is to imbue them with incentives like those that weed out unsuccessful companies in the private sector.

Glass once told him that when he was hired at Wal-Mart he told the other leaders there that he didn't know what a good corporation looked like, but he did know what a good store looked like.

The implication being that big things are built from the ground up, locally.

As an example of incentive-based health efforts, Brownback cited his Governor's Weight Loss Challenge, in which he and a team of four others set a weight-loss bar and then encouraged other teams of five state employees to try and beat it. Those that did got a piece of a $30,000 prize pool donated by sponsors.

"I would urge you as people leading this charge in the state of Kansas to really spend a lot of time thinking about the incentive structure," Brownback said.

Brownback also lauded the effect of local events like 10K races that get communities talking and training together.

"Events drive people," Brownback said.

That advice was reflected in practice by Lisa Moritz, the Greeley County health nurse and the Greeley Unified School District 200 Greeley school nurse. Brownback presented Moritz, of Tribune, with the Individual Health Champion award for her work in keeping schools open during off-hours for walking and organizing local running events with themes like Full Moon or Freeze Your Biscuits Off.

Other award winners included the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department, Scott Wadle of Wichita, HaysMed and the Garden City Schools Wellness Team USD 457.

The summit's keynote address was delivered by Doug Gruenbacher, a primary care physician from Quinter was a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Robert Moser, the secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said there are many theories as to why the state's obesity rate is increasing, with one being that many in the state are moving away from the physical activity of a farming lifestyle without adjusting their caloric intake accordingly.

"We're just boiling down to where we're putting in more calories than we're burning," Moser said.

But Moser said some anti-obesity initiatives already seem to be bearing fruit within some demographics, noting that the percentage of obese children from low-income families has dropped.

"It's not that it isn't possible," Moser said.

Brownback also stressed optimism over resignation in the fight against fat, likening it to the anti-smoking campaigns that have made a serious dent in tobacco use since public health advocates started them decades ago.

One of the keys for Kansas, he said, was to get residents to appreciate the state's natural beauty more. Why go to Colorado for a hike, Brownback said, when there are seven miles of trails right behind Cedar Crest.

"I'm very, very sick and tired of us as Kansans saying there's nothing to do here," Brownback said.

October 1, 2013

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