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Child Nutrition Bill Provides Essential Ingredients for Nutritious School Meals
Excess weight is commonplace in our society and is detrimental to the health of our children who eat more and exercise less. They grow so tall that they outgrow age-appropriate clothing and are sometimes unable to fit comfortably in classroom chairs. With childhood obesity now ranked as one of the most significant health problems in the United States, we must tackle the problem quickly or we risk not being able to reverse this dangerous trend.
As a cardiologist, I too often see the medical consequences of obesity. More and more young people now need daily medication to reduce the increasing risk of vascular diseases produced by obesity. Medications and diagnostics once reserved for adults are now being used in younger and younger children. The rampant increase in risk associated with high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and “so-called” adult-onset (type 2) diabetes translates into more heart disease, at a younger age. In addition, the psychological and emotional problems associated with obesity compromise many children’s “joie de vivre” and reduce their ability to learn and excel in school.
The statistics are frightening. Childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years, from 4% to nearly 20% in 2008. And obesity-related diseases cost nearly $168.4 billion a year, or 16.5% of national expenditure on medical care. country simply cannot afford. Fewer children are participating in simple physical activities such as swimming, cycling or even walking short distances. Sedentary behavior coupled with access to high-calorie foods and beverages in school cafeterias and vending machines only exacerbates the problem.
High-calorie beverages, especially high-fat milk, are still widely available in schools, a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois has found. This contrasts with recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that urge elementary schools to offer only water, 100% juice in 4-ounce portions and 1% skim dairy outside of the school lunch program. The bottom line is that students have easy access to high-calorie beverages in environments where they spend most of their day. More emphasis needs to be placed on initiatives to remove sugary drinks from schools and teach young people to eat sensibly and stay active.
Thanks to a historic agreement between the beverage industry and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a nonprofit organization founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, we are making progress. There was an 88% decrease in the total calories of beverages shipped to schools between the first half of the 2004-05 and 2009-10 school years. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s only a step. Congress now has the opportunity to strengthen the standards of most schools in the country.
Comprehensive nutrition education and increased opportunities for physical activity in schools have been shown to be effective in preventing and reducing obesity. But in order to build a healthy and productive future for children, our country’s leaders must step up and pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This legislation, which has already been approved by the US Senate, is currently awaiting a vote in the US House of Representatives. The measure would help eliminate childhood obesity by improving the nutritional quality of school lunches, removing junk food and high-calorie drinks from vending machines, and strengthening school wellness policies.
Not only will these provisions help improve children’s health, but research shows that children who are introduced to healthy foods and physical activity early in life are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors as they age. adult. Healthy, active children also learn more effectively and perform better academically.
The promise of today’s youth is in our hands, and we must come together to ensure the speedy passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The US Senate has already passed the measure, so the US House of Representatives has the option of sending the bill to the president when Congress reconvenes this month. As children continue to weigh in at alarming levels, let’s tip the scales in favor of initiatives that will get them back in shape and make the school environment a place that promotes healthy lifestyles with physical as well as academic rewards .
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