Utah lawmakers tackle growing obesity trend

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 4:03 p.m. MST

A resolution working its way through the Utah Legislature aims to put obesity at the forefront of the minds of lawmakers and the general public.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A resolution working its way through the Utah Legislature aims to put obesity at the forefront of the minds of lawmakers and the general public.

HCR2 points at the rising costs of health care that are exacerbated by growing waistlines, said resolution sponsor Rep. Stewart Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, who is also a physician and surgeon. He said obesity is a "significant problem that is growing in medicine."

"Most people, when they think of serious preventable diseases, they think of smoking, alcohol use, diabetes, heart disease and illnesses like those," Barlow told members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. "Rarely do they think obesity as a significant co-morbidity."

Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, who chairs the committee, said he reached a "tipping point" prior to Thanksgiving last year that caused him concern about his increased blood pressure. He implemented various changes in diet and exercise and was able to lose some weight.

"It's amazing the difference in your lifestyle when you lose a significant amount of weight," said Vickers, a pharmacist. "With each individual, there are certain lifestyle changes you have to make to improve your health."

The resolution carries no mandates, but rather suggests that individuals and leaders of the state take the issue of obesity more seriously. It gives the state an opportunity to provide education that might encourage more individuals to implement healthy changes in their lives.

The issue of obesity, Barlow said, needs to be addressed not only at an individual level, "but as a problem of the village, or as a community. We need to look for solutions to help us as a whole."

Barlow attempted to pass similar legislation during last year's session, but it never received a vote from the full body of the Legislature. So far this year, HCR2 has received a favorable recommendation from a House committee and the House of Representatives.

The Senate committee Thursday voted unanimously in support of the resolution. It has been placed on the consent calendar for consideration of the full Senate.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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