Sen. Gratwick proposes bill to shrink Maine’s child obesity rate

Posted: April 14, 2017 | Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, would establish a task force to study the causes, and develop strategies to reverse, Maine’s high rate of childhood obesity.

The bill — LD 1111, “Resolve, To Establish a Task Force To Study the Causes of and Solutions to the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity in Maine” — received a public hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee on Friday.

According to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2015, nearly 32 percent of children from kindergarten to third grade and nearly 31 percent of high school students are overweight or obese.  Obesity in childhood puts people at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and a number other health problems.

“Childhood obesity is a major issue in Maine and sets the individual up for health complications and shorter lives,” said Sen. Gratwick. “Obesity and overweight have immense human costs, but also take a financial toll in the cost of health care associated with treating complications that arise as a result of excess body weight. So we cannot afford to ignore this issue or kick it down the road.”

In written testimony provided to the committee, President of the Maine Osteopathic Association Dr. Lisa Gouldsbrough talked about the importance of reducing childhood obesity in Maine.

“Obesity imposes a significant economic impact both on individuals and society as a whole. It is not just direct medical costs associated with obesity-related diseases but the indirect impacts on productivity and increased transportation costs,” said Dr. Gouldsbrough. “A study by the University of Maine School of Economics estimates that the current children classified as overweight and obese could generate costs of over 1 billion dollars (in direct and indirect expenses) over the next 20 years.”

Gratwick said that he is “very disturbed” that the Governor’s budget proposed in January eliminates almost all funding for obesity prevention.

“This is exactly the wrong direction for us to take. We must do better for the people of Maine,” said Gratwick.

LD 1111 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.