New Pilot for SNAP Recipients Proposed

TMA Testimony by John Carlo, MD

Senate Health and Human Services
House Bill 3434 by Sen. Jane Nelson/Rep. Richard Raymond
May 7, 2013

Good afternoon Chair Nelson and members of the committee. I’m John Carlo, MD, MS, chief executive officer of a non-profit provider of primary HIV medical care in North Texas and formerly the medical director for Dallas County Health and Human Services. I’m also the incoming chair of the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA) Council on Science and Public Health. Today I’m here to testify in support of House Bill 3434 by Rep. Richard Raymond and Sen. Jane Nelson on behalf of the TMA, representing more than 47,000 physicians and medical students.

With two out of every three Texas adults and almost one-third of our school children age 10-17 years already overweight or obese, physicians now see the results of poor nutrition and inadequate physical activity. Obesity and overweight statistics are not just numbers to us – these are our patients. Overweight and obesity dramatically increase a person’s risk for developing other serious health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and arthritis. Texas taxpayers are footing the bill for many of these expensive diseases.

Obesity is complex and we are still learning about the environmental factors that contribute to obesity, such as poor understanding of nutrition and poor access to healthy foods  due to cost or because fresh food markets are not available. TMA has heard from medical students with families who rely on SNAP. These families need to stretch SNAP benefits throughout a whole month forcing them to purchase calorie-dense, low-cost foods of minimal nutritional value for their families. In this case, these are not SNAP recipients who lack knowledge about healthy foods but are clearly placed in a situation where the current SNAP benefits plainly don’t allow for costlier, healthy food choices.

We believe many families that rely on SNAP want to make healthier food choices. HB 3434 would help them make this step. Just as physicians follow evidence-based practice guidelines developed from high quality studies, we believe a properly designed pilot project can provide critical information needed to shape SNAP so it can become a healthy food resource. A pilot program is a reasonable approach to encourage more healthy food choices, more of the time.

We encourage you to lead in preventing overweight and obesity with your approval of HB 3434. It will benefit many Texans and may even in the long run reduce taxpayer costs.  TMA offers our assistance in the implementation of this important project.

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