by Rochelle Davis, HSC Executive Director
While some people might think that healthy school food and access to recess and gym class are not critical public policy issues worthy of the attention of our national leaders, we're constantly working to show how essential it is for leaders at all levels to recognize that these are public health issues that ultimately affect everyone.
It's mind boggling to consider that children today might be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents -- all because of the increase in the rate of childhood obesity and related health complications.
Illinois Sen. Barack Obama recently released his healthcare policy [pdf] and I was very pleased to see that he recognized the seriousness of childhood obesity. In fact, he dedicated a section on school systems to the issue:
A generation ago, nearly half of all school-aged children walked or biked to school. Today, nearly 9 out of 10 children are driven to school. And once there, children are not very physically active- only 8 percent of elementary schools require daily physical education. Childhood obesity is nearly epidemic, particularly among minority populations, and school systems can play an important role in tackling this issue. For example, only about a quarter of schools adhere to nutritional standards for fat content in school lunches. Obama will work with schools to create more healthful environments for children, including assistance with contract policy development for local vendors, grant support for school-based health screening programs and clinical services, increased financial support for physical education and educational programs for students.
These are all initiatives that we've been supporting. We will continue to bring these issues to the attention of political leaders -- and look at how other candidates are addressing these concerns.