North Texas Daily

Public Health Week focuses on obesity

Public Health Week focuses on obesity

April 02
23:03 2013

Ben Peyton / Senior Staff Writer

The UNT Health Science Center will host the 6th annual North Texas Health Forum on April 4 and 5 at the MET auditorium. Guest speakers will discuss childhood obesity, said Richard Kurz, professor and Dean of the UNTHSC School of Public Health.

The goal of the forum is to take the discussions about childhood obesity to the next level by giving all obesity-fighting groups the chance to come together and build relationships, Kurz said.

“It will be very interesting and informative, and hopefully push the community to move forward on this problem,” Kurz said.

Kurz started the public health forum as a way to focus on issues relevant to the Tarrant County Community and to build a bridge between public health and the UNTHSC academic efforts.

“Obesity in general, whether it’s in a university setting or any setting whatsoever, is becoming a major public health issue in this country,” said Herschel Voorhees, Director of Clinical Services at the Health Center.

The forum will also include posters and information provided by community organizations.

The conference “Childhood Obesity: Accomplishments and Challenges” will be presented by the school of public health.

Guest speakers will include Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who will discuss the city of Fort Worth’s efforts such as ‘Fit Worth,’ a city initiative aimed at halting the increasing obesity rate.

Other speakers include Steven Kelder of the Dell Center for Healthy Living at University of Texas and Risa Wilkerson, a program officer for ‘Healthy kids, Healthy communities’ from the University of North Carolina, Kurz said.

“Both of them, I think, are going to add this national perspective to what we’re trying to do,” Kurz said.

As of 2010 more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. The rate has more than doubled for children and tripled for adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

On UNT’s main campus students and staff can get help for obesity through services like a dietician at the UNT health center, Voorhees said.

“When I was a child, which was many years ago, you would hardly ever see this in the United States,” Kurz said. “That is certainly laying the foundation then for health problems when people grow and become adults.”

Kurz pointed to the dramatic increase in Type 2 diabetes as an example of health costs of obesity.

Wright said 63.9 percent of Denton County residents are overweight and 27.2 percent are obese.

The Denton County Health Department does not have an obesity prevention program but is planning on starting one after their current mental health project has been completed, said Julie Wright, Health Educator at the Denton County Health Department.

For more information about the free public health forum and to register visit

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