AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas is struggling with its obesity rate, according to a new report by the United Health Foundation.
The state ranks 34 in overall health, dropping one spot from 2016. Texas is among the top 10 states dealing with a high obesity rate. Some organizations focused on improving the health of Texans say there are a variety of ways the state can use these findings.
“What it’s going to take is a concerted effort and we’re going to have to come together and say this is a priority for all of us,” Baker Harrell, CEO of statewide non-profit It’s Time Texas said.
It’s Time Texas has formed statewide partnerships, helping communities, companies and schools implement workplace wellness programs and after-school curriculums. It also assists with establishing or growing Mayor’s Health and Fitness Councils. Other resources include a bilingual health coaching hotline. Harrell points to programs like Stronger Austin, which helps with free exercise classes and after school programs in the city’s underserved neighborhoods.
“How do we bring resources to these communities where so often, those resources don’t exist?” Harrell said.
Benefits consultant Ian Goodman is with Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. and works closely with It’s Time Texas and companies to craft wellness support programs.
“Health risks like obesity are going to lead to higher costs on your medical plans,” Goodman said.
Goodman said employers can contribute to a healthier workplace environment through various ways, “whether it’s a challenge, whether it’s something we’re going to do as a team and making a connection to the community.”
The United Health Foundation report also said Texas ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for smoking, but the rate of adults who smoke has decreased over the last five years. Another challenging factor includes a lower number of mental health providers.
Goodman says it’s critical state and local leaders use this report to implement change.
“It’s going to take our policymakers at the local level and state level providing the funding necessary to do what we know works,” he said. “It’s going to take schools and employers stepping forward to say we have an opportunity to turn the least healthy generation in our state’s history to the most healthy generation.”
On Wednesday, Austin’s Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council celebrated the healthiest workplaces. Winners talked about their programs and explained what they do to help employees live healthier lifestyles.
It’s Time Texas is launching a community challenge starting Jan. 8. The three-month competition is free and people can earn points for their community by uploading selfies of healthy eating or exercising. There will be an activity tracker on the organization’s website.