New Jersey is committed to reducing obesity and making our communities healthier.
Obesity rates are a major public health concern both nationally and in New Jersey that put people at greater risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some cancers.
The Department’s Office of Nutrition & Fitness began an initiative last year called Shaping NJ, a public/private partnership of 111 groups working together to encourage children and adults to increase physical activity; reduce consumption of high-calorie, low-nutrition foods such as chips and candy; decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda and juice; increase breastfeeding; and decrease TV viewing.
Nearly one quarter of New Jersey adults were obese in 2009. In addition, one in ten high school students were obese. Rates vary by race and ethnicity – rates are highest among African Americans and Hispanics. The obesity rates for low-income children between 2 and 5 years of age were 18.4% in 2009.
The Shaping NJ partnership is working with municipalities and the Department of Transportation to increase walking and biking paths statewide. It is also working with the Department of Agriculture, which implemented regulations two years ago to ensure that healthy foods are available to all students while foods of minimal nutritional value—as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture—are excluded. Food and beverages that list sugar in any form as the first ingredient and all forms of candy are prohibited.
The Department is also working with child care centers to increase consumption of healthier foods and physical activity. This effort has the potential to reach more than 4,000 licensed child care centers and 3,400 registered family child care homes with more than 280,000 children in their care.
The Department is also working with hospitals and the New Jersey chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the 54 hospitals that deliver babies. These efforts will vastly increase access to healthy nutrition and physical activity for our youngest children.
At the community level, we are working with the New Jersey Health Officer’s Association to educate local health departments about the New Jersey Obesity Prevention State Plan and to disseminate evidence-based strategies to local health departments.