NAACP Supports Legislation to Address America’s Childhood Obesity Epidemic by Increasing Physical

NAACP Supports Legislation to Address America’s Childhood Obesity Epidemic by Increasing Physical Activity

THE “FIT KIDS” ACT WOULD PROMOTE HEALTHY, ACTIVE LIFESTYLES BY STUDENTS ACROSS THE U.S.

Obesity rates have soared among all age groups, increasing more than four-fold among children ages 6 to 11 over the last 40 years throughout America.  Recent studies found that 33% of 6 to 11 year olds and 34% of 12 to 19 year olds are overweight; these rates have roughly doubled since 1980. Sadly, major disparities exist among the obesity rates of children based on race, ethnicity, and poverty; for example 38% of Latino children and 34.9% of African-American children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese, compared with 30.7% of White children and 39.5% of low-income American Indian and Alaska Native children ages 2 to 5 who are overweight or obese.

The toll that this problem is taking on children and their families, not to mention the nation as a whole, is immense.  Psychologically, obese children and adolescents are targets of early and systematic social discrimination, leading to low self-esteem which, in turn, can hinder academic and social growth and functioning.  Physically, it has been proven that obese young people have an 80% chance of being obese adults and are more likely than children of average weight to become significantly overweight or obese adults. This challenge puts them more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.  Not only does childhood obesity lead to physical and emotional problems, but it can be financially draining on the individuals, their families, and the country.  People in the United States spend about 9% of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses, which equates to as much as $14 billion per year in direct health care costs.

Along with champions in Congress and the Administration, including First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the NAACP supports a multi-pronged approach to combating childhood obesity.  This approach includes promoting and ascribing to healthier diets, increasing physical activity, and educating parents and children alike as to the problems associated with childhood obesity and how to avoid this problem that continues to grow at an alarming rate. 

As such, the NAACP supports the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (“FIT Kids Act”) (H.R. 1057 and S.576). This legislation, introduced by Representative Ron Kind (WI) and Senator Tom Harkin (IA), would engage parents and the public by requiring all school districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, including the amount of time spent in physical education in relation to the recommended national standard. The Act would further ensure appropriate professional development for health and physical education teachers, fund research to examine the link between children’s health and their academic achievement, and recommend effective ways to combat childhood obesity and improve healthy living and physical activity.

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