Tackling obesity while kids are young

Kentucky high school students hold the dishonor of having the worst obesity rate in the nation, according to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” a report released in September 2014 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report, based on health-risk data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cites several reasons for these statistics, primarily sedentary lifestyle and high-calorie, low-nutrient eating habits.

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To put Kentucky’s No. 1 obesity ranking in perspective, about 36,000 (18 percent) of our state’s 200,000 high school students were classified as obese in 2013. That’s more than all the students enrolled in Jefferson County’s 22 public high schools combined.

These kids are our future and they need our help.

University of Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino and some of the pediatricians at Norton Children’s Hospital have worked together to create a program to help children and teenagers called  “Play Smart & Eat Right.” The yearlong campaign kicked off Monday, Sept. 15, and asks youth to take a pledge to:

  • Be active by playing sports and having fun.
  • Drink water and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat at least one serving of fruit and vegetables every meal.
  • Balance screen time and physical activity

It’s easiest to build healthy habits, such as finding an enjoyable sport and eating healthy meals, when we’re young. And small steps can make a big difference in reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other life-altering diseases. Research has proven that feeling better about ourselves not only affects physical health for growing bodies, but also improves academic performance and overall emotional well-being.

This new program includes a “before you start” sports checklist, a fruit and veggie calendar, a screen time vs. activity balance sheet and a free water bottle to help children and teens “Play Smart & Eat Right.”

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