We’ve made little progress in reducing early childhood obesity in this state. In fact, a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds Tennessee is one of just three states where the problem has worsened in recent years.
Data shows the rate of obesity for children ages 2-4 from low-income families rose in Tennessee from 13.5 percent in 2008 to 14.2 percent in 2011. Colorado and Pennsylvania are the other two states to record significant gains in childhood obesity during the same period.
These latest numbers for early childhood obesity are disturbing because they come just months after the CDC removed Tennessee from its top 10 list of the most obese states.
Tennessee has made some progress in reversing a frightening trend in obesity among school-age children. School officials in Johnson City and Washington County have implemented programs aimed at promoting better nutrition and physical fitness for their students. Sodas and junk food have been removed from some vending machines on campuses and replaced with healthier snacks.
Obesity and diabetes often go hand in hand. And it is a problem that manifests itself most profoundly in the state’s youngest citizens. Tennessee is among the top five states in this country with a prevalence of Type II diabetes among children.
There are ways to address the problem. Regular physical activity provides a number of health benefits for children, teenagers and adults, including improvements in muscle strength and a reduction in the risk factors for chronic diseases. Doctors say exercise, along with a nutritious diet, is the key to shedding both pounds and health risks.
It’s time to return physical education to the core curriculum of public schools. Healthy and fit children grow into healthy and fit adults, and healthy and fit adults are less likely to be a financial drain on our health care system.