Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is obesity killing our kids and can we ameliorate it?

I was at a meeting yesterday (I have had quite a run of meetings lately, including one in Bloomington Tuesday) of a new group/task force out to prevent death and promote healthy lifestyles. It is a group of various folks from our county coming together to “tackle the single most critical health concern facing Americans today”. I’m not so sure their target is the “most critical health concern”, but it is a serious concern and one worth tackling and that is obesity.

This effort got its start from the national YMCA “Activate America” initiative.

Another slogan from their PowerPoint presentation was “We want you to get Lake County active and fit”. That is, I think, a better (and more reasonable) target. Encouraging folks to get and stay active (and “fit”) and to see what we can do to aid folks in eating healthier stuff. This effort will include special emphasis on kids, likely their behavior is a bit easier to change/impact, but also because of some recent studies demonstrating that early obesity is shortening the life expectancy of our future generations. The first such studies came out in 2005 (see this New York Times article)
For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, according to a new report, which contends that the rapid rise in childhood obesity, if left unchecked, could shorten life spans by as much as five years.

and the New England Journal has again published similar studies the latter part of last year (see USAToday article).
Taken together, doctors say, the studies provide new evidence that excess weight does affect a child's long-term risk of heart disease and life expectancy.

Pushing activity (and fitness) is a great goal and would likely have a great impact on this and so many other health issues. Creative thought and attention needs to be directed at special problems experienced by folks in lower socioeconomic strata, those in neighborhoods not conducive (for many reasons) to outside, local activity, and other special populations, but it is doable for all.

I look forward to participating in this effort. Working to promote health and forestall death by many avenues is my “most critical…concern”.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope that the authority of your office will help schools (and taxpayers) commit to daily physical education.

In the 60s, we had daily physical education and recess, and there was no food in school, except in the cafeteria.

In the '80s & '90s, my children often had sedentary physical education days devoted to learning game rules or health education. Health education is important. (I am less sure about written tests on football for sixth graders.) But perhaps it should be in addition to actual physical activity, not instead of it.

As for food, my kids had so many pizza parties in school and it seemed as though you could snack in the halls and in class. They even had Pizza Hut-sponsored reading contests in second grade.

I am very glad of the current movement away from junk food and pop in schools. I hope we bring back sensible and limited eating and more activity to schools.