As we survey the health landscape, the top challenge we face in Florida is the challenge of weight. Only 36 percent of Floridians are at healthy weight; one quarter are obese and the rest are overweight. Over the next 20 years in Florida, obesity is expected to contribute to millions of cases of preventable chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, costing an estimated $34 billion.
To overcome this challenge, the Florida Department of Health launched the Healthiest Weight Florida initiative in January 2013. Healthiest Weight Florida is a public-private collaboration bringing together state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, schools, businesses and entire communities to help Florida’s children, adults and families make consistent, informed choices about healthy eating and active living. Our goal is for Florida to be the healthiest weight state in the nation. In just two years, we’ve moved from being a top 20 healthiest weight state to being in the top 15.
Health and work are interconnected. Floridians spend about a third of their total waking hours at their place of work, so healthy environments and worksite wellness programs are essential to improving healthy weight. Weight challenge results in expensive health care costs, absenteeism and employees who come to work when they’re sick. Employers with a strong commitment to wellness can engage employees to achieve fundamental and enduring behavioral changes for health, while reducing insurance costs.
Through Healthiest Weight Florida, the department has initiated efforts across our state to reshape environments so healthy choices become the easy choices. Our Healthy Weight Community Champion 2015 Recognition Program encourages local governments to implement policies that aim to increase physical activity and improve nutrition. In 2015, we announced 65 communities as Healthy Weight Community Champions for their roles in advancing health in workplaces and in local environments.
We are proud of all public and private organizations in Florida that support the principles of Healthiest Weight Florida by implementing exemplary employee wellness practices. I encourage you to continue the conversation about healthy weight within your businesses at the local level. There is no finish line to public health in Florida, yet by enhancing our work environments to better accommodate opportunities for health, we can create a culture that endures in future organizations.
Dr. Armstrong has been a national leader in health policy and advocacy for over 20 years. He is Chair of the ACS delegation to the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates; ACS Governor for Florida; and member of the ACS Health Policy and Advocacy Group. He is the 2011 ACS/American Association for the Surgery of Trauma Health Policy Scholar, and a former trustee and executive committee member of the AMA.