Local view: There are easy fixes for childhood obesityOnce again we are celebrating far too early. In a rush to claim victory over childhood obesity, Bloomberg News ran an editorial embellishing a slight gain in a desperate situation. (The editorial was published on the News Tribune Opinion page on Aug. 12 under the headline, “How to capitalize on first victory in child obesity fight”.)
By: Roxanne R. Wilmes, for the News Tribune
Once again we are celebrating far too early. In a rush to claim victory over childhood obesity, Bloomberg News ran an editorial embellishing a slight gain in a desperate situation. (The editorial was published on the News Tribune Opinion page on Aug. 12 under the headline, “How to capitalize on first victory in child obesity fight”.)
Having some doubts on the figures quoted, I turned to the actual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
While obesity rates have fallen by more than 1 percent in six states, 21 states and territories had no significant change and three states saw obesity rates increase — information that was absent from the Bloomberg editorial. Also omitted was that 10 states did not contribute to the study because of inconsistent data or changes in the methodology of collecting the data, which could have skewed the results.
Bloomberg’s suggestion to further reduce childhood obesity — more government regulation — was no surprise. After all, the news organization’s founder, now-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was the driving force behind the attempted bans on large sodas and sweetened beverages in his New York City. His answer to the obesity problem was eliminating television advertising of consumables that did not fall under the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
For the first time ever we are looking at a generation whose life expectancy is likely to be shorter than their parents’. If that doesn’t get your attention it should. It’s not hard to see what’s gone wrong, but the remedy may be a bitter pill for many to swallow. Boomers and Generation X grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, complete with commercials for toys and sweets. We begged for what we saw, as children do today. The difference was our parents weren’t afraid to say no.
Television time was limited, a treat which could be easily taken away for punishment. We savored those morning hours until our parents kicked us out the door to play.
That is another obvious contributor to the obesity epidemic: lack of physical play. Instead of getting outside to burn off sugary treats, a generation of zombies is being raised barely capable of human interaction without an electronic device. If you don’t think that’s true, hand any phone-sized object to a toddler; it immediately will become a piece of technology.
If the government really wants to get involved in fighting obesity, it can start with the easy stuff, like kicking restaurants out of school cafeterias. That’s right, I said easy, not popular. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is going to happen when a child eats pan pizza and fries every day. Go back to the old lunch line where good and healthy choices could be offered in properly dispensed portions and served with milk or water.
And if the government really wanted to get crazy, it could stop spending all its education money on buildings and fancy extras; schools don’t need to look like shopping malls. Hire more teachers instead and expand the school day so physical education is a priority. Teach kids about food: where it comes from, how to prepare it and what is healthy. These are things every child should be taught at home and at school.
The CDC study shows a link between lower incomes and obesity. When properly educated about nutrition, people can learn to eat healthful food on a budget. Time and money should not be an issue if one plans ahead. Perhaps the government could change the frequency of assistance disbursements, allowing more fresh produce to be purchased.
With a little hard work we can reverse the obesity epidemic afflicting our children, and that would be something to celebrate.
Roxanne R. Wilmes of Duluth is vice president of marketing and social media for Fresh Air Lodging, holds degrees in political science and city planning, has worked on political campaigns for 27 years, served two terms on the News Tribune editorial board, and is a past precinct chairwoman and delegate for the Republican Party.