An annual obesity report by two public health groups found a dozen states top 30 percent obesity — with Mississippi topping the list and Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana close behind. Many of those obese Tennesseans are children.
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 the prevalence of Type II diabetes in 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.
Unfortunately, too many children in this state will spend most of their days this summer with a computer mouse or video game controller in their hands instead of a golf club, baseball bat or fishing rod. That must change.
Tennessee has made some progress in reversing a frightening trend in childhood obesity. Researchers say one way to lower obesity rates is to improve the quality of food and drinks now available in schools.
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.
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.