TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey’s new Office of Nutrition and Fitness will better coordinate programs aimed at preventing obesity, the Associated Press reported.

Dr. Fred M. Jacobs, commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Health and Senior Services, says he wants to tackle the obesity problem through education, support groups and encouraging physical activity, rather than by banning particular foods. Jacobs also is mulling the idea of having schools notify parents through report cards about children with weight problems.

Morton Downey, spokesman for The Obesity Society, which represents doctors, researchers and others in the field, says he knows of no other state with a dedicated agency fighting obesity and called New Jersey’s initiative an encouraging step that could become a national model.

According to a 2004 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey has the highest percentage of overweight and obese children under age 5. New Jersey also has many black and Latino youth, who are more likely to be overweight than white kids. Almost 23 percent of New Jersey’s residents are considered obese, and another 37 percent are overweight, according to the CDC.