Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."
Fighting A National Challenge in Connecticut
Obesity costs the United States an estimated $147 billion each year in medical expenses and the rates of obesity among children, adolescents and adults have increased dramatically over the past four decades. More than 23 million (1 in 3) young people in the United States are overweight or obese and at a greater risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that physical activity is beneficial, fewer than half of U.S. children and adolescents currently meet the recommended activity guidelines. In our state, the Connecticut Coalition Against Childhood Obesity is working to change that.
There also is substantial evidence showing that children who are physically fit and active tend to perform better in the classroom.
Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and the Society of State Leaders in Health and Education reflect a strong link between nutrition, school-based physical activity, physical education and academic performance. Student health impacts cognitive skills and attitudes toward academic performance, and results in better concentration, attention, and overall improved classroom behavior. This connection is particularly evident lowest performing school districts, where the challenges of health and education are often the greatest.
“It is so important that we combat the issue of childhood obesity as an overall student health issue and a critical factor in successful school reform efforts,” said Clark Hansen of Save the Children. “How can our Connecticut students achieve their maximum potential in school if they are battling obesity and obesity related health problems? We need a coordinated effort here in Connecticut to make a true impact.”
Connecticut Residents Support Efforts to Fight Obesity
Over 80% of respondents cited obesity as a serious problem among children and teens in Connecticut in a poll conducted recently sponsored by Save The Children and the American Heart Association. Importantly, the poll also indicated that 92% of respondents feel that schools and the community should play a major role in reducing obesity in Connecticut.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, respondents cited the “number one” health risk to children in Connecticut today as childhood obesity, polling even higher than drugs (21%), nicotine (11%), or alcohol (11%).
In the survey, 98% of respondents indicated believe that a student’s health has an impact on his or her performance at school.
The poll included likely voters from Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, Middlesex, New London, Litchfield, Tolland and Windham counties – the entire State of Connecticut.
Connecticut At Critical Juncture
The Connecticut Department of Public Health, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, has pointed out that adolescents who are overweight have an estimated 80% chance of being obese as adults, and if overweight begins before age 8, obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe. As recently as 2005, one-quarter of the state’s high school students described themselves as overweight; nearly half said they were trying to lose weight.
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