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Massachusetts Launches Mass In Motion

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Just like millions of Massachusetts residents, state government and public health leaders are making a New Year’s resolution for better health. The Patrick Administration today announced the most comprehensive effort to date to address the serious problem of overweight and obesity in the Commonwealth.

The state’s top health leaders launched Mass in Motion, a multi-faceted effort that will promote a broad range of wellness activities for Massachusetts residents, businesses and communities. The announcement was made at the Body by Brandy Fitness Center, a Roxbury-based leader in promoting community health and wellness activities and programs.

While Massachusetts compares favorably to other states with respect to overweight and obesity, our rates are increasing more quickly than the nation as a whole. The Commonwealth has seen a 47% increase in overweight and obesity over the past two decades, compared to a national increase of 40%.

“More than half of adults in our state are overweight or obese, as are one-third of our middle and high school students,” said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “We know that being overweight and obese places us at a higher risk for serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain kinds of cancer. Those conditions place enormous burdens on our residents and on our health care system, so it makes sense for us to focus on prevention. And that is what Mass In Motion is all about,” Dr. Bigby said.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner John Auerbach said there is a sense of urgency to addressing the overweight and obesity epidemic in Massachusetts.

“The trends that we are seeing are troubling,” said Commissioner Auerbach. “Unless we make progress, overweight and obesity will overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in Massachusetts. That should get everyone’s attention focused on the problem. This groundbreaking initiative will be the framework for us to work with our partners throughout the state to make progress towards solutions.”

Mass In Motion is comprised of a number of policy and program elements, including:

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* The release of a report documenting the extent of the obesity epidemic in Massachusetts and its consequences;

* Grants to cities and towns to help municipal and community leaders establish wellness initiatives at the local level. The nearly $750,000 in grants will be competitively awarded and can be used by mayors and other department heads to support a number of local activities including providing healthier meals in schools, expanding the availability of farmers' markets or supermarkets in low income neighborhoods and designing community transportation systems that encourage walking and bike riding. More than $500,00 of the funding for these grants will come from several of the major health-funding foundations and organizations in the Commonwealth;

o Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
o The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation
o The Boston Foundation
o The Harvard Pilgrim Health Foundation
o The Metrowest Health Foundation
o The Tufts Health Care Foundation

* The development and passage of public health regulations to promote healthy diet and exercise, including;

o Body Mass Index (BMI) testing of students in all public schools in the Commonwealth;
o Caloric menu labeling for large chain restaurants.

* An Executive Order by Governor Patrick requiring State Agencies responsible for large-scale food purchasing (e.g., DPH and DMH hospitals) to follow healthy nutritional guidelines in their food service operations. State purchases of food by these agencies runs into the tens of millions of dollars per year;

* The expansion of a state-sponsored Workplace Wellness program throughout the state to help employers create work sites that encourage healthy behaviors and reduce absenteeism and health insurance costs.;

* The launch of a state-sponsored Mass In Motion web site that promotes healthy eating and physical activity at home, work, and in the community. The objective of the website is to provide simple, practical, cost-effective ways for Massachusetts’ residents to:

o Improve eating habits
o Increase physical activity
o Ask experts questions about improving their eating and physical activity routine
o Get involved in helping to build healthy communities



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