Battling obesity in the Fox Valley

APPLETON – Battling bulging waistlines. It’s a growing problem everywhere. Even in the Fox Valley.

Health experts say it’s now an epidemic 30 years in the making.

It’s not hard to spot, even here in the Fox Valley. Experts say 62% of Americans are now overweight or obese.

“We struggle just like the rest of the nation does,” said Dr. John Edwards, a pediatrician with Theda Care.

He says change won’t be easy and it needs to be a family effort.

“As much as possible if we can have parents on the same page, realizing that healthy eating is better for all of us. That’s going to make an important difference as well as what’s available and setting the example for kids.”

The second meeting of a Fox Valley summit on obesity is focusing on initiatives to combat the problem. The first meeting of local leaders last week identified problem areas and causes.

“The healthier our employees are the lower our healthcare costs, the lower our healthcare costs the more money we can put into city services,” said Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna.

The city of Appleton employees more than 600 full-time workers. Hanna says the city has incentive driven programs to encourage employees to be physically fit. Just one way businesses can help stem the tide of obesity.

“This is the only kind of thing that works, which is to get public sector and private sector, local philanthropic organizations and large health systems and little non-profits all in a room to sit down and look at what’s the problem and what they think they can do about it,” said Karen Timberlake of the UW Population Health Institute.

Whether its adults or children Dr. Edwards says reversing the trend starts with healthy eating and exercise.

“If we can teach healthy behaviors in childhood, that’s going to help try to set up healthy behaviors for life. And then building activity as part of every single day is a great approach to building a foundation for healthy body weight and good cardiovascular fitness.”

An approach built one step at a time.

The obesity summit is expected to meet again in the coming months.

Organizers want agencies and businesses to come up with a formal plan to fight obesity in Northeast Wisconsin.