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News and information from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pitt State physical education experts laud philanthropy for battling childhood obesity

Physical education experts at Pittsburg State University said today they are pleased with this morning’s announcement by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that the philanthropy plans to commit at least $500 million over the next five years to battle childhood obesity.

“I hope that the southeast Kansas area will benefit from this initiative, as well as well as others that are currently being developed,” said Janice Jewett, a member of the faculty in PSU’s Department of Health, Human Performance & Recreation.

John Oppliger, chairman of the department, said the public health threat posed by childhood obesity is not news among physical education professionals, but public awareness of the problem is increasing.

Jewett said efforts to combat childhood obesity are growing, “but more needs to be done.” She pointed to school and community groups that have been formed to fight the epidemic and grants from agencies such as the Kansas Health Foundation to implement programs and services to make southeast Kansas a “healthier” place to live.

“Awareness is increasing,” Jewett said. “Families, schools and even entire communities need to see the lack of physical activity and unhealthy food choices for children as a risk factor that affects us not only at the current time, but also will have a strong impact on our future.”

Oppliger agreed, noting that the childhood obesity epidemic and its health consequences could mean that children in school today could represent the first American generation to see an actual decrease in life expectancy.

According to a release from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued on April 4, the foundation’s goal is to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in the U.S. by 2015. The foundation’s focus will be on “improving access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for safe physical activity in schools and communities. It will place special emphasis on reaching children at greatest risk for obesity and related health problems.”

Childhood obesity facts
• More than 33 percent of American children 6-11 are obese (approximately 25 million children).
• Overweight adolescents have an 80 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
• Some research estimates the cost of childhood obesity in the U.S. at $14 billion annually in direct health care costs.
• Overall, the direct health care and lost productivity costs of obesity in the U.S. is estimated at about $117 billion annually.

For more on the PSU Department of Health, Human Performance & Recreation go the department Web site at http://www.pittstate.edu/hper/ or call 620-235-4665.

For more on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and childhood obesity, visit the organization’s Web site at http://www.rwjf.org.

---Pitt State---