in this article the governors say they dont want to be "sugar sheriffs" or "grease police" but we know thats a lie. after all we now have messy yard cops who will put you in jail and seize your home if you dont mow your lawn and trim your palm trees.

Governors to tackle U.S. obesity problem

Chip Scutari The Arizona Republic Dec. 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Arizona, like the rest of America, is fat and unhealthy, mired in an obesity epidemic that often gets swallowed up by other headline-grabbing issues.

The statistics reveal our flabby, unhealthy underbelly:

Nearly six in 10 Arizona adults are overweight or obese, placing them at risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and early death.

One in three Arizona children ages 6-19 is overweight or obese.

The combination of childhood obesity and physical inactivity is driving health care costs to all-time highs and forcing companies to raise health insurance rates.

Some of the nation's governors descend on Phoenix today for their winter meetings, and they have only one topic on their plate: a leaner, healthier America.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, this year's chairman of the National Governors Association, is spearheading the drive to a healthier America after giving up Southern fried foods and taking up running.

Just two years ago, he lost 110 pounds after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The 50-year-old Huckabee said people must undergo a cultural change and "start killing the snakes instead of treating the snake bites."

"This may be the greatest health risk America has ever seen," said Huckabee, a Republican who is being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. "This is not something that will be accomplished in an election cycle. We're going to have to change this over a generation."

He pointed out that 700,000 Americans would die this year because of obesity or a lack of activity.

He said that while changing lifestyles is difficult, if he can do it, anyone can.

"I used to love anything fried," he said. "I'm a true Southerner at heart. The only thing I haven't seen fried is a salad, and I'm sure someone will give that a shot."

The governors, including Arizona's Janet Napolitano, will spend the next two days at a Phoenix resort talking about ways to turn the tide against childhood obesity and promoting a healthier lifestyle. Huckabee said states must first change attitudes and educate the public before government acts.

He said lawmakers shouldn't be the "grease police" or "sugar sheriffs" because it shifts the debate from healthy lifestyles to individual rights. Arkansas has been in the forefront fighting the battle of the bulge. State employees in Arkansas can get up to a $40 a month discount on their monthly health premiums, including a $20 discount if they don't smoke. They are also allowed to exercise 30 minutes a day during work hours.

America's weight problem costs big bucks. The United States spent nearly $93 billion in 2002 treating obesity-related diseases, according to Health Affairs, a Maryland-based health policy and research journal. In fact, the United States spends more money per capita on health care than any other country in the world.

In early 2004, Napolitano directed the Department of Health Services to tackle an obesity problem that is prevalent across Arizona. The Arizona plan offers ideas such as changing building codes to promote healthy community designs, building lactation rooms in businesses and teaching parents how to feed their children and get them moving. But it doesn't have any mandates or funding, just recommendations for changes in schools, communities, workplaces and health care.

Sue Gerard, director of the state's health department, said the problem is so complex that it can't be fixed overnight.

"Parents are afraid of their kids walking to school for fear they will be abducted," said Gerard, who takes a 15-minute walk every Tuesday morning with her staff. "Instead, they drive their kids to school. We can do simple things, like making neighborhoods walkable with good lighting, safe sidewalks and plenty of parks. It's making community planners think about those things."

Doug Hirano, director of the Mountain Park Health Center in south Phoenix, noticed the increase in overweight children at his clinic, so he formed a neighborhood group.

"We found out that 25 percent of the kids coming in here were overweight," Hirano said. "Kids aren't getting enough exercise. The availability of fresh fruit and healthy food is less accessible in low-income areas."

Hirano's group is monitoring physical education in local schools, sponsoring "No TV nights" and building community gardens where neighbors can buy fresh fruit.

In 2004, 23 states, including Arizona, received an "F" in the nation's first report card on obesity, issued by the University of Baltimore, for failing to require physical education, improve school nutrition or eliminate junk food on campus. Napolitano, a Democrat, said Arizona has to start putting the state plan into action, adding that she will use the "bully pulpit" of her office to create a healthier Arizona.

"We have to encourage parents to get out and exercise with their kids," she said. "We have to learn better eating habits. Childhood obesity leads to adult health problems.

"We should look at giving state employees incentives because it has been successful in Arkansas. It's all about diet and exercise."

Dr. Michelle May, a family practitioner who works with parents, said everyone must work together.

"It's really a complex issue," May said. "Kids are enticed to hassle their parents to buy certain foods that are low in nutritional value. It is not a parent's job to have their kids clean their plate so they can have dessert. This is going to take some time."

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