State looks at ways to reduce obesity

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(Host) Efforts to address the problem of obesity in Vermont got a boost last week from Governor Jim Douglas. 

In his State of the State address, Douglas called for the creation of community grants to combat obesity.  He also announced a plan to fund prevention specialists around the state. 

Officials are concerned about the problem because complications related to obesity add up to $140 million in annual medical expenses.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Chittenden Senator Doug Racine said the state will rely on a public information campaign and voluntary efforts to reduce obesity. 

Racine chairs the Health and Welfare Committee which will take up the issue next week. 

He says it’s unlikely his panel will seriously consider ideas like taxing junk food or imposing exercise requirements as part of Vermont’s school curriculum.   

(Racine) "I think what we’re talking about today is more about education and using government to help provide some of the money that might be needed, and putting the word out. But we aren’t talking about the heavy hand of government to help people make changes in their lifestyles.  It’s just not going to happen that way."

(Host) A report issued last month by the state’s Health Care Reform Commission called for dramatic improvement in obesity trends in Vermont. 

The incidence of obesity in the state is below the national average, but the U.S. as a whole has a much higher rate than the rest of the world. 

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