Statistics show that 2.5 million children in the U.S. age 12 to 20 are severely obese (weighing more than 100 lbs. over ideal weight). Some 19 percent of children age two to 14 in Tarrant County are obese, and in the Fort Worth Independent School District, half the children are considered overweight. The life expectancy of this generation is estimated to be lower than previous generations.
On April 4 and 5, 2013, the UNT Health Science Center’s School of Public Health (UNTHSC) hosted the 6th annual North Texas Health Forum, focused on “Childhood Obesity: Accomplishments & Challenges.” The purpose was to inform the community about successful initiatives in childhood obesity prevention and discuss the potential for improvement and next steps for Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
Keynote speaker for this two-day conference was Dr. Steven Kelder, professor from the University of Texas and Co-Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living, Austin, along with a special presentation on “The Path to Reduced Childhood Obesity” by Risa Wilkerson, MA, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who serves as program officer for Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, a national initiative focused on childhood obesity prevention.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks also joined the program to discuss local efforts, and a panel of community leaders – including Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas; Dr. Lou Brewer, Director of the Tarrant County Public Health Department; Dr. Don Wilson, pediatric endocrinologist at Cook Children’s Health Care System; and Georgi Roberts, Director of Health and Physical Education for the Fort Worth Independent School District – offered perspectives from their organizations and experiences.
A video recording of Dr. Kelder’s keynote address is available for viewing here, and speaker PowerPoints for Dr. Kelder, Ms. Wilkerson, Dr. Brewer, Dr. Wilson and Ms. Roberts can also be viewed for more information.
The 2013 North Texas Health Forum was a sold-out event; this conference is offered each year at no charge and is open to the public as part of UNTHSC’s National Public Health Week activities. Previous Health Forums have tackled the issues of infant mortality, alcohol abuse, the emotional well-being of African American children in Tarrant County, and national health policies impacting citizens today.
The next North Texas Health Forum will be offered in early April 2014. Watch this website for updates and future event listings.