Fall in Arkansas

Arkansas Plan for Health Instead of Obesity

Late last week, Arkansas unveiled a brand new 10-year plan to promote health instead of obesity. Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson was responsible for re-branding the initiative, which was originally called the “obesity plan.” At a news conference, he explained:

I wanted this to be a positive value set for the state of Arkansas. This is not an anti-obesity phraseology, this is a Healthy Active Arkansas. We don’t want someone who is overweight in school to go away feeling worse because they’ve been singled out as not fitting in. That’s not the objective of this, to stigmatize any element of our society.

We feel compelled to cheer.

Arkansas has a rather mixed record on obesity. According to the Trust for America’s Health, the state currently has the highest rate of obesity of any state in the union — 35.9% in 2014, which is up from 34.6% in 2013. The governor back in 2004, Mike Huckabee, had a plan to reduce the state’s obesity rate from 24% to 15% based on his personal philosophy of how to deal with the problem: “Quit digging your grave with a knife and fork.” That was the title of his  book on the subject, issued at a time when he was making a big point of all the weight he lost though his simple plan of personal responsibility.

Of course, life got in the way and much of that weight came back after his campaign for the presidency in 2008 didn’t work out and a foot injury set back his personal fitness routine. It’s a familiar story that just about everyone who is susceptible to obesity has experienced.

Likewise his plan for reducing obesity in Arkansas didn’t work out. It had some good points like better school nutrition standards. But a centerpiece, lining up students at Arkansas schools to be weighed, has not helped.

The mixed record makes the Arkansas plan to promote good health and physical activity for its citizens without promoting stigma a step in the right direction. Let’s hope they make it work this time.

Click here to read more from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Fall in Arkansas, photograph © AGB in AR / flickr

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October 19, 2015

4 Responses to “Arkansas Plan for Health Instead of Obesity”

  1. October 19, 2015 at 7:07 am, Julian Simcox said:

    Based on my experience in the UK Healthcare system, it is predictable that this initiative should fail.

    By following the principles of Improvement Science, the outcomes for both individual students and for the initiative overall should have been monitored over time — see the paper in the Journal of improvement Science: “Commissioning for Efficacious outcomes” which offers tackling obesity as an example.

    The participations of students, teachers and parents – in that order – and using data (student weighed weekly) is what’s needed.

    • October 19, 2015 at 9:18 am, Ted said:

      Thanks for sharing the reference, Julian.

  2. October 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm, Angela Meadows said:

    Weighing kids is fraught with potential problems – from increasing stigma to promoting eating disorders. Julian Simcox may be correct that promoting movement and population health rather than focusing on weight may not lead to improved BMI metrics, but it is much more likely to produce improvements in biomedical markets – insulin sensitivity, lipids, blood pressure, and in mental health outcomes. We need to stop measuring ‘success’ of public health policy by numbers on a scale.

    • October 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Angela. I agree with you that weighing kids at school is unhelpful. Period.