Kentucky and West Virginia are the two worst states in the country in terms of the number of overweight and obese children and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Childhood Obesity Task Force convened for its first meeting on June 21 in Northern Kentucky with the overarching goal of curbing childhood obesity. If the initiatives of the task force are successful, they will not only improve the quality of lives for our children now, but will also decrease health costs and secure a healthy and productive workforce in the future.
Dr. Christopher Bolling, Obesity Chair for the Kentucky Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, presented startling statistics on the prevalence of childhood obesity in the state. Studies have continually demonstrated that heavy children become heavy adults. Dr. Bolling cited one study that showed being overweight by age 9 means you are 11-30 times more likely to be an obese young adult.
Dr. Ruth Shepherd and Elaine Russell of the Kentucky Department of Public Health said state programs are attempting to address childhood obesity by:
- Increasing physical activity in schools
- Establishing a statewide body mass index (BMI) surveillance system for children
- Supporting breastfeeding in the workplace
- Requiring nutrition and physical activity standards in child care centers
- Establishing complete streets policies to make our streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly
- Requiring menu labeling at fast food and chain restaurants
- Requiring healthy food at state agencies
- Providing worksite wellness tax credits to businesses
Childhood obesity is even a national security issue. Recruiters from the Kentucky National Guard testified they are seeing more and more youths who are mentally capable of joining the military, but do not meet the required physical standards. Weight problems have become the leading medical reason why young adults are unable to serve in the military, both in Kentucky and nationwide.
The next meeting of the Childhood Obesity Task Force is scheduled for August 16.