Tackling youth obesity in state

SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE

The news hasn’t been getting any better when it comes to the health of Hoosier children.

The latest comes from the National Survey of Children’s Health that shows more than one-third of Indiana youth ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, and that Indiana has the ninth-highest youth obesity rate in the United States.

Overweight youth is not a new issue. Seven years ago, former first lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign targeting childhood obesity.

National efforts have been aimed at improving nutritional programs for youth and programs by local agencies to increase physical activities, but those efforts haven’t made enough of an impact.

Data provided from the Indiana Youth Institute say, nationally, 12.2 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 do not participate in vigorous physical activity, which is defined as being active for 60 minutes or longer, during the course of a week. And nearly half of Indiana high school students report that they are trying to lose weight, according to an Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey two years ago.

When bad health habits are developed in youth, they’re likely to be carried into adulthood. In St. Joseph County, for example, one in four adults are considered physically inactive, meaning they report no physical activity during leisure time in the past month.

The problem, which public health officials have been sounding alarms about for years now, requires solutions that recognize the role of lifestyle changes. Addressing childhood obesity will require a multifaceted approach.

Parents must become more informed about exercise and nutrition and healthy foods must be made more accessible for families.

Engaging the public on the topic of childhood obesity is no small task, and the goal of ending childhood obesity is daunting. But a public health crisis that threatens the future of children and adults throughout Indiana requires a significant effort.

This was distributed by the Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.