Thursday, July 05, 2007
Are boardwalk delicacies the next target?
I love going to the beach. Not only is it a time to relax and enjoy the sun and surf, but the boardwalk offers a lot of goodies that you don't find in many other places: taffy, cotton candy, greasy pizza by the slice, buckets of french fries. Ah the joy. Or is it?
As I was wandering through the crowd, munching on a funnel cake, the reasons for the obesity epidemic became pretty obvious. Look at what we are eating! And the place was loaded with skimpy suits on zaftig bodies, squeezing a lot of girth into little pieces of material. Wow. Half-naked bodies don't lie. We are a fat nation, not a fit nation. For years, we Americans have let fatty, high-calorie foods add pounds to our bodies. We've fed our children junk instead of home-cooked meals. Then we've sat around and ignored the consequences. Now, millions of Americans have type 2 diabetes and face major heart problems. We are no longer just the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are the country of the chubby. It's not a title we should be proud of. Because as the U.S. gets heavier, we are faced with serious issues that begin to affect our health-care system and our economy. Something needs to be done and soon. Many experts believe it's up to the states to begin the fight.
Every year, the University of Baltimore puts out a report card, giving grades to states, based on how well they attack the obesity issue. This year, the state of California received top honors. It's true, former Mr. Universe (and California Gov.) Arnold Schwarzenegger is no slouch when it comes to physical fitness. But it takes more then a buff state official to get an "A" from the University of Baltimore
California received the high grades in part because of programs including "First 5 California." The group's main goal is to make sure that all children in the Golden State get proper care in their first five years of life. Officials believe that a child's positive health habits are formed early and that healthy children will grow into healthy adults. But "First 5" officials don't think that their job is done after the age of 5. Childhood obesity is still a problem in tots to teens, from San Diego to San Francisco. So in an effort to get the word out to parents, "First 5" has been actively working on an awareness campaign that lets parents know it's up to them to keep their kids fit.
Today you can drive along Sunset Boulevard and see billboards reminding parents that obesity can hurt their children. Flick on the TV in Santa Monica or Fresno and a commercial appears with an adorable child asking her parent to stop and get (instead of fast food) some grease or a heart attack - stark reminders that every bite of food makes a difference in a child's health. "First 5" director Kris Perry says it's about good decision-making. "We're trying to convey to (parents) that these little choices all day long -- a cookie here, a doughnut there, a glass of juice, some chips -- by the end of the day your child has consumed far more calories then they really needed." The campaign has become so popular that comedian Adam Sandler, appearing on "Late Night with David Letterman," joked that the ads prompted him and his daughter to put down their cheeseburgers.
It's campaigns such as these that obesity experts say work. California is lucky because the state has the money to run the ads. But Ken Stanton, co-author of the University of Baltimore reports, says other governments can do their part. For example, look at New York City's ban on trans fats, or Arkansas' fight against vending machines in schools.
So are the boardwalks at places like Ocean City, Maryland, or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the next targets? Will they banish soft-serve ice cream and chicken wings forever? Probably not. But as states begin to look at how they can impact their residents and their diets, you may see fewer people standing in lines waiting for those buckets of fries and more buff bathing beauties on the beach.
Do you think states should do more? If so, what can they do to curb obesity in this country?
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