Guest editorial

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fighting obesity begins at a young age

No parent wants his or her child to pick up a bad habit, but it seems that too many of our nation's youngsters are doing just that.

They've been watching what adults eat and noting how little they move about -- and are doing the same.

Obesity rates among children are skyrocketing, and health officials are alarmed about what the consequences could bring.

About 30 percent of American children and teenagers are overweight or obese.

For years, we've been hearing that Americans are too fat and too sedentary.

Obesity was to blame for 400,000 deaths in 2000, and being overweight contributes to other health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and even cancer.

Missouri officials have taken the obesity epidemic seriously. The state's childhood obesity rates exceed national averages.

The state health department is participating in a federal program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that addresses issues of nutrition and physical activity as a means of overcoming obesity.

But experts say social norms have to change before we will see any results. People have to eat better and exercise more. Communities, schools, parents and children have to be engaged in this battle against obesity. Consider it a fight for your health.

Jackson students taking part in an after-school "Way to Go, Kids" program are learning about nutrition and better health and taking those lessons home.

A Texas program encourages children to run a marathon -- or at least its distance equivalent -- over the course of several months.

The Marathon Kids program also helps teach children and their parents about physical activity and good nutrition by asking them to keep a log of the distances they run and the fruits and vegetables they eat.

The younger we start teaching about good nutrition and the importance of exercise, the better off we are.

--Southeast Missourian