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For Release:
December 19, 2007

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

Dr. Jacobs Concludes Childhood Obesity/Secondhand Smoke Campaign: Urges Educators, Public Health and Elected Officials to Continue Crusade


At the end of a 3½-month public education campaign that reached 40 groups including 6,400 middle- and high-school students, state Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. urged educators, the medical community and elected officials to continue the crusade against childhood obesity and secondhand smoke.


The education campaign, entitled “A Healthy Future for New Jersey’s Kids: Childhood Obesity/Secondhand Smoke,’’ featured a 40-minute powerpoint presentation on childhood obesity and its health effects as well as the dangers of exposing young children to secondhand smoke in cars and in homes.


“These are two health issues that we as a society can control and directly effect the health of our families, our neighbors and our communities,” said Commissioner Jacobs.


Governor Jon Corzine, Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus and Education Commissioner Lucille Davy joined Dr. Jacobs at several schools and other events.


“Obesity and secondhand smoke have become prevalent issues that are impacting our school children,” said Governor Corzine.  “I commend Commissioner Jacobs, Secretary Kuperus and Commissioner Davy for a unique campaign that has reached a broad cross-section of students and their parents.”


Dr. Jacobs also made presentations to doctors, nurses, college students, congressional and legislative staffers, statewide gatherings of the PTA, dieticians, school nutrition directors, county and local health officers, community health centers and the New Jersey Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. The commissioner also made TV and radio appearances and presentations to groups representing women and the South Asian community of Edison.


Dr. Jacobs, who steps down as commissioner at the end of the month to return to Saint Barnabas Health Care System as executive vice president and director of its Quality Institute, urged the medical community, educators and the state’s elected officials to join forces with the private sector—particularly the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—to keep continued and sustained focus on these two crucial public health issues.


“Childhood obesity is the biggest threat to the lifelong health of children in New Jersey and nationwide,’’ said Dr. Jacobs. “Excess weight due to poor diets and inactivity is the nation’s second leading cause of preventable death after smoking.’’


High school students from New Jersey’s anti-tobacco group REBEL (Reaching Everyone by Exposing Lies) hosted Dr. Jacobs at many of the dozen high schools and two middle schools that he visited in 10 counties. More than 8,000 students in more than 200 high schools in all 21 counties are members of REBEL.


Secretary Kuperus said, “There is a new urgency to curtailing childhood obesity, with recent studies saying this generation of young people might live shorter, sicker, lives than their parents. Communicating one-on-one with students has helped in our overall efforts to educate them about the benefits of healthier eating and leading more active lifestyles.”


Nationwide, the rate of overweight and obesity has tripled among adolescents during the past three decades. The percentage of children between the ages of 6 and 12 who are overweight has more than doubled during that same time period.


During his presentation, Dr. Jacobs pointed out that several obesity-related conditions—such as Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure—once seen almost exclusively in adults—are now being seen with increasing frequency in children.


Other than staff time, the campaign cost a total of $250 for two large banners. The high schools/middle schools that Dr. Jacobs visited included: Buena High School, Clifton High School; Columbia High School in South Orange; East Brunswick High School; Grice Middle School in Hamilton; Kearny High School; Hackettstown High School; Hamilton West High School; Holy Cross High School in Delran; Toms River Regional School District—all three high schools and Woodbridge Middle School.


Childhood obesity has reached epidemic effects not only in New Jersey but around the country as well. In the last 25 years, the rate of overweight children and teens has more than doubled. In adolescents it has more than tripled over the same period. A 2004 study conducted jointly by both the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Education found that 38 percent of sixth graders were either overweight or obese.


 “Healthy children are better prepared to learn,” said Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy.  “Through our Core Curriculum Content Standards for Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.”


The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHHS) has created a new Office on Nutrition and Fitness to coordinate its obesity prevention and nutrition and fitness programs.


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