An article in this issue of CBI, “A Call to Action!,” notes that “Overweight and obese children desperately need our nation’s help.” From a three-year-old in Texas to young men and women deemed “unfit” for military service, the situation is dire.
The health of our children has always been a primary—in fact, a primal—concern, but, today, it’s being threatened, across the board, by physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, producing what’s been described as an “obesity epidemic.”
Recently, doctors at the University of Texas in Houston described the case of a three-year-old girl—the obese daughter of obese parents—who’d been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, one of the youngest cases ever reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that, in 2012, 21% of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 were obese (see pg. 48). And nearly 25% of 17-to-24-year-olds are too overweight to serve in the military.
The same problem is developing in other sectors where physical fitness is critical, e.g., police and fire departments.
I have friends who are in charge of evaluating applicants for several police departments. When a few job openings are posted, hundreds of highly motivated people apply. The written exam has always thinned the ranks, but now, they tell me, the physical fitness requirements are disqualifying a growing number of applicants.
On the designated day, these individuals find it impossible to pass the fitness test they had months—or even years—to prepare for.
The societal implications of an overweight population are countless—e.g., an increase in the incidence of certain diseases and medical conditions, rising healthcare costs, reduced employee productivity, shortened longevity—and their impact, monumental.
But it’s the personal cost to our children, and to the adults they’ll become, that’s most important.
As “A Call to Action!” points out, there are things our industry can do—should do—to help. Another critical step is to ensure that children understand the fun and benefits of physical activity, and have plenty of opportunities to engage in it. In 2013, more than half of all high school students didn’t participate in any physical education (PE) classes in a typical week, and, today, nearly 75% don’t get the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day.
Promoting PE in schools is one of the most effective ways to ensure our nation’s health. One way to do so is by supporting passage of the Fit Kids Act, introduced in Congress in 2013 and reassigned, last April, to a congressional committee for its consideration. If approved, this proposal would provide grants to schools across the country to launch, expand, or improve upon PE programs for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Importantly, it also would replace the 37% in funding cut from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) for fiscal 2015, the country’s only dedicated source of funding for PE programs. To learn more, visit ihrsa.org/industry-watch/tag/fit-kids-act.
There is hope for overweight children … because there are solutions.
In the case of the three-year-old in Texas, physicians, initially, put the child on a liquid version of the diabetes drug metformin. But they also educated her parents about diabetes and nutrition, and asked the family to modify its lifestyle. “They were also asked to increase their daughter’s physical activity,” explains Foxnews.com.
Six months after diagnosis, the girl had lost 25% of her weight, had normal blood glucose levels, and was no longer taking metformin.