Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Obesity stalls (and Fit Nation may have helped!)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall obesity levels among adults have not increased in the past few years. They're quick to say that the numbers are still very high -- about 34 percent of us, or close to 72 million people! (Full Story)
Could it be that in the last two years, CNN's Fit Nation campaign contributed to the stalling out of these numbers? Maybe it was the Fit Nation Challenge? Or maybe it was our Fit Nation Summit with former President Clinton two weeks ago? Yeah, that's it! Sure!
OK, those were just shameless plugs, but the truth is, it's not so far-fetched to think that programs such as Fit Nation have contributed to obesity awareness and maybe even helped reduce the problem.
It's true that there's still a long way to go. For example, more than half of black and Hispanic women ages 40-59 are obese, compared with 39 percent of non-Hispanic white women, the CDC noted. We have to figure out how to close that gap.
As we've worked on Fit Nation over the past two years, I have seen a few recurring themes as we crossed the country.
1) Education -- Did you know that a tablespoon of ketchup has more sugar than an ounce of soda? You may not eat 12 tablespoons of ketchup in one sitting, but the calories, and the sugar will add up. Educating people on how to eat well and exercise, on what tests their doctors should be doing to check for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and on what they should be teaching their children is essential in the fight against obesity.
2) Awareness -- Did you know that obesity-related disease is the second-highest preventable cause of death in Americans? Second only to smoking? As President Clinton has said over and over again in his public campaign to reduce childhood obesity: "Overweight and obesity threaten to make this generation of children the first to live shorter lifespans than their parents." Did you catch that?? Despite all of the medical advances we've made over the last 20 years, obesity may cause our children's life spans to DECREASE.
3) Responsibility/Accountability -- It is a fact that high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are in many of the foods we eat. Parents and schools must take responsibility for ensuring that children are eating healthier foods. Political leaders must take responsibility for holding food manufacturers accountable for what they put into foods; and food manufacturers and providers must take responsibility for serving their customers healthy foods.
4) Innovation -- Despite the progress, there are still close to 200 million American adults who are overweight or obese, and we must find innovative ways to help get American moving and eating right. We've seen some incredible programs around the country:
Marathon Kids is a great example. By encouraging kids to run a marathon over the course of six months and log their progress, Kay Morris is making change.
LaDonna Redmond is building urban farmsites in some of the most dangerous areas of Chicago, where guns and drugs are more available than fruits and vegetables. She is making change.
Todd Sisneros, our Fit Nation Contest winner from 2006, is a PE teacher who saw that his students were too sedentary. With just a home video camera, he made an exercise DVD for every one of his students. Todd is making change.
Kaboom, an organization we plan to work with in 2008 and beyond is building playgrounds in underserved areas across the country. By building safe playspaces "within walking distance of every child in America," Kaboom is making change.
President Clinton, the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation came together and formed The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They are working on several projects including plans to get healthier food in schools. They are making change.
And our friends at Cartoon Network with their "Get Animated" program are helping to bring recess back into schools across the country, and to get kids more active, more of the time. They are making change.
You may think I'm overstating it, but the truth is, all of these solutions, along with countless others I have not mentioned, are helping to stop obesity in its tracks. I can only hope Fit Nation has had a small part in that.
What are your thoughts? My colleague Val Willingham and I have been blogging extensively on this topic. Has that helped you make any change?
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