The House committee on Public Health met on March 8, 2010 and one of the interim charges they reviewed regards obesity rates in Texas.


Charge 1 – Monitor implementation of legislation intended to curb rising obesity rates in Texas. Study and make recommendations regarding better coordination of prevention efforts and evidence-based strategies to reduce impact of obesity on health care costs. Include recommendations related to the use of federal stimulus funds targeted toward obesity prevention.


Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, VP & Chief Medical Officer, BCBSTX (Blue Cross Blue Shield), testified; and gave an overview of the problem of obesity, focusing on childhood obesity. He offered some insight on Body Mass Index (BMI) saying the center of the BMI bell curve is moving. He notes, “Rather than normal weight, I talk about healthy weight.”  He pointed out the number of children who are overweight or obese has tripled in 30 years. There are 782,000 obese children in Texas. The medical costs related to obesity in America in 2008 is estimated at $147 billion and, in Texas, in 2009 the medical cost is estimated at $11.76 billion. Sanchez argues that healthy children perform better academically. He also recommended universal, coordinated school health programs.


The committee also heard testimony on successful wellness programs in state agencies and nutritional programs. Todd Staples, Commissioner of Texas Department of Agriculture, testified on the public school nutrition program – Texas leads the nation, Staples said – “but we’re losing them after school and during the summer time.” He emphasized the need for personal responsibility. Texas “Bring It” campaign mentioned – targeted at children. Education, exercise and eating right are components of the campaign. He further notes the schools are being asked to shoulder much of the burden with excess paperwork on reports, etc.


Dr. Adolfo Valadez, assistant commissioner at the Texas Department of State Health Services, testified on the following:

·        Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention Program (NPAOPP);

·        SB 343 establishing the Healthy Food Advisory Committee;

·        The Texas Diabetes Council (TDC);

·        The Texas School Health Advisory Committee; and

·        HB 1297 on the State Agency Wellness Program.  


Valadez highlighted that the TDC has nationally renowned guidelines for the treatment of people with diabetes. Numerous times throughout the hearing members inquired about the rising numbers of diabetic Texans. Until you address obesity you will not change the number of diabetics across the state, argued Valadez.


Dr. Charles Bell, Deputy Executive Commissioner at Texas Health and Human Services Commission, testified on the impact of the medical obesity prevention pilot.  Based on his data, overweight and obese children may cost Texas Medicaid an additional $250 million all funds per year because of the health problems associated with weight.