Texas lawmakers, academia and community groups partner to fight obesity

Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Partnerships between Texas state lawmakers, academia and local community groups have completely changed the way obesity prevention is addressed in the state of Texas, according to an article published in the December issue of Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research Education and Action. The strategy of collaboration that Texas has utilized to combine limited state resources with the personal resources of the community has significantly impacted efforts to address obesity. 

“This paper chronicles recent efforts in Texas highlighting health policy initiatives and champions who helped create the foundation for obesity prevention and control,” says Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., Regents and Distinguished Professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health and a primary coauthor of the article. “These strategies can also serve as a model for obesity prevention and control at the national level.” 

Strategies include state legislation, crafted using evidence from a broad base of scientific research, which strengthens physical activity requirements in schools and the regulation of foods sold in cafeterias and vending machines. Success of these policies requires nonprofit and philanthropic groups that support implementation and fund intervention projects to further understand the effects on obesity. 

“It is only through partnerships that Texas has been able to achieve broad scale consensus on what evidence-based policies and programs are effective with Texas populations,” says Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D., director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living and another primary coauthor. 

This collaborative approach underscores the philosophy of Live Smart Texas, a coalition of over 200 individuals and 115 unique organizations established to combat obesity in Texas. This review provides insight into how the state can meet Live Smart Texas’s goal of 15% prevalence of child obesity in 2015 and 10% prevalence of child obesity in 2020, or “15 by 2015 and 10 by 2020.” 

Camille Miller, Live Smart Texas co-chair, notes that “these consensus building efforts have served to inform and provide direction to academicians, practitioners, advocates and decision makers alike on existing promising approaches to reduce the obesity burden in this state and identify where there are gaps in knowledge and resources needed to achieve long term goals.” 

The article is authored by Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., Regents and Distinguished Professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in collaboration with Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., C.N.S., John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion and Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus. Additional authors include Donna Nichols, M.S.Ed., Justin Dickerson, Ph.D., Klaus Madsen, M.P.H, Camille D. Miller, M.S.S.W., Diane Dowdy, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Tiffni Menendez, M.P.H.

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