PETIT JEAN MOUNTAIN, Ark. (June 16, 2015) — Obesity is one of the most pressing health care issues of our time. A group of dedicated leaders in Arkansas will soon take another step in addressing the increasing effect that obesity has on health and health care.
In partnership with the Arkansas Department of Health, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute will host a highly facilitated, invitation-only summit this week to explore the feasibility of establishing a “single-focus” entity to combat obesity. The summit will take place Wednesday and Thursday at the Institute on Petit Jean Mountain.
This week’s meeting is a follow-up to the December 2013 conference at which more than 60 key advocates in Arkansas met at the Institute to collaborate on New Frontiers in Combating Obesity: A 10-Year Plan for Arkansas. The resulting plan, scheduled to be released soon, is a framework of research-based strategies to guide efforts in combating obesity. One of the key recommendations from the plan is for Arkansas to create a single-focus entity that will provide “infrastructure, authority and ownership” for the efforts.
“According to the 2012 issue of the Obesity Journal, Arkansas spends $1.25 billion annually on obesity-attributable expenditures,” said Dr. Marta Loyd, executive director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. “We are proud to work with our dedicated partners to move the conversation forward on this important issue.”
To explore realistic requirements of establishing a single-focus entity, the summit is bringing together a group of leaders to articulate goals and learn from other states with similar entities. Experienced representatives from three states have committed to attend the summit: Rick Johnson, CEO of the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness in Tennessee; Beth Franco, executive director of Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina; and Gabriel Guillaume, executive vice president of programs and strategy for LiveWell Colorado. The sessions will be facilitated by Barry Goldberg of Entelechy Partners, a Little Rock-based consultant with 25 years of experience developing leaders in a range of national and international organizations.
Among the Arkansas health care leaders attending the summit is Dr. Greg Bledsoe, state surgeon general.
“Obesity is a critical concern that significantly impacts the health of many Arkansans,” Bledsoe said. “Gov. Asa Hutchinson and I both appreciate the work and leadership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to address this serious problem. As we continue developing a plan for our state, I look forward to working with these dedicated leaders to improve the health of all Arkansans.”
Dr. Joe Thompson, director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said the task of treating current obese Arkansans and preventing the next generation from following suit is a monumental challenge.
“Obesity is basically the unintended consequence of societal changes that have occurred over the past few decades,” Thompson said. “Reversing the trend is complex and requires intentional societal participation on all fronts. This summit provides an opportunity to reenergize our efforts.”
Dr. Joe Bates, deputy state health officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, will also attend the summit. Bates has long been a champion of solutions to Arkansas’ obesity problem and says the long-term projections of obesity are grave.
“Almost half of adult Arkansans are obese, and 40 percent of Arkansas children are overweight or obese when they enter kindergarten,” Bates said. “Eighty to 90 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese, and have been often many years prior to diagnosis. Diabetes is a rapidly growing problem; in 20 or 30 years, one-third of adults in the U.S. will have diabetes if the present obesity trends continue. In addition to personal tragedy, these diseases are an enormous economic consequence to the state.
“Lowering the obesity rate is crucial if we intend to reduce or prevent illness, disability and death, and ultimately improve the health of our state.”
Dr. Dan Rahn, chancellor of UAMS, said that a complex problem like obesity requires complex solutions.
“No other health issue affects more Arkansans,” Rahn said. “We must develop new strategies to lower the rate of obesity in our state.”
About the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement
The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has served the state of Arkansas since 1998 as a nonpartisan, independent health policy center. ACHI’s mission is to be a catalyst for improving the health of Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy and collaborative program development. ACHI is jointly supported by the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. This support allows ACHI to respond to emerging issues and provides the nimbleness necessary to take advantage of emerging health policy opportunities. ACHI has worked in the area of childhood and adolescent obesity prevention since its inception.
About the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a northwest Arkansas regional campus; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. It is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 2,890 students and 782 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com, or find us on Facebook.
About the Arkansas Department of Health
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is a centralized health department, operating health units in each of the state’s 75 counties. County governments provide facilities and support for the clinical, environmental and home health services offered by the agency. ADH works to protect, improve and promote the health of all Arkansans with the support of more than 5,000 dedicated employees and public and private partners. Each year, Department employees monitor and investigate public health disease and threats, provide preventive and personal health services in clinical and in-home settings, enforce laws and regulations, support Hometown Health Improvement, promote healthy behaviors, and respond to public health emergencies.
About the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute
In 2005, the University of Arkansas System established the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust. By integrating the resources and expertise of the University of Arkansas System with the legacy and ideas of Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, this educational institute and conference center creates an atmosphere where collaboration and change can thrive.
Program areas include Agriculture, Arts and Humanities, Civic Engagement, Economic Development, and Health. To learn more, call 501-727-5435, visit the website at www.rockefellerinstitute.org, or stay connected through Twitter and Facebook.