Lawmakers want to combat obesity in Minn. schoolsby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to combat obesity in Minnesota by improving physical activity and nutrition in public schools.
But the legislators say their specific recommendations for the 2010 session will result in no new costs or mandates.
Two Minnesota House committees held a hearing today Tuesday on efforts to reduce obesity. DFL Senator Teri Bonoff of Minnetonka is part of a House-Senate working group on the issue. She said she wants to send a strong signal to local educators that students need more exercise during the school day.
"We're asking them to creatively have every student active 60 minutes daily," Bonoff said. "We can't make them, but I'd love to do contests, incentives, anything that could be done that we are promoting that."
Several medical experts also told lawmakers that a reduction in obesity would help lower health care costs. Obesity and related health problems cost the state an estimated $1 billion a year.
At the hearing, Dr. Marc Manley of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota said by 2020, projections show three out of four Minnesotans will be overweight.
"Thirty-one percent of the overall increase in health care costs from 2005 to 2020 will be due to weight increases," Manley said. "That is, a single risk factor, obesity, will drive nearly one-third of the increases in health care costs that we'll experience over that 15-year period."
Legislators are also considering new statewide standards for physical education, and a program to encourage more nutritious food and beverage options in schools.