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FOR RELEASE: September 28, 2000  
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Child Health Month: Get Kids Up And Moving

Did you know that nearly 10 to 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, according to recent studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? This represents a disturbing 100 percent increase in obesity among children and adolescents between 1980 and 1994. This trend has federal and state health officials concerned because childhood obesity can lead to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and other leading causes of death and disability in later life.

During October, designated as Child Health Month, officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) want to draw attention to the need for children to exercise regularly and eat nutritious foods to control weight and increase their potential for healthy outcomes as adults. Regular exercise, in particular, provides short-term benefits and reduces long-term risks for disability and premature death.

For Oklahoma's children, the need is apparent. Surveys conducted by the OSDH indicate 27 percent of first graders and 61 percent of 5th graders report having less than one hour of daily physical activity. Similarly, 44 percent of first graders and 54 percent of 5th graders reported spending more than two hours daily watching television, playing video games, or using a computer.

“The goal of Child Health Month,” says Dr. Edd Rhoades, chief of the Maternal and Child Health Service at OSDH, "is to raise awareness that increasing physical activity is one way to combat sedentary behavior. At the same time, health care providers want to offer exercise to young people as a positive, fun alternative to risky behaviors such as crime, drugs, alcohol, sexual experimentation, and tobacco use."

Dr. Rhoades suggests families can promote good health by following these suggestions:

  • Make physical activity a family recreation time.
  • Limit time children spend watching television and playing video games.
  • Create physical activity opportunities by looking for new things to do.
  • Use family meals as a time to teach good eating habits by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and reducing fat and soft drink intake.
  • Take control of the food choices at home by providing low-fat foods for snack time like fruit, yogurt, fruit juices and nutritious frozen treats.
  • Plan grocery shopping to include healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, chicken and low fat meats.
  • Take family walks together or bike riding adventures.
  • Encourage schools to require physical education for all students.
  • Promote physical activity in neighborhoods through availability of sidewalks, safe playgrounds, bicycle and skate trails.
  • Provide a range of extracurricular programs in schools and community recreational centers that appeal to children and youth.
  • Make sure schools offer nutritious meals and limit candy, soft drinks and high calorie foods in lunches and vending machines.
  • Check with your local health department to see if your family could qualify for WIC, a nutrition enhancement program for income-eligible families that provides nutrition education before and after the birth of a baby.

State health officials confirm these benefits of physical activity in childhood and adolescence:

  • improved strength and endurance,
  • healthier bones, muscles and joints,
  • enhanced weight control with lean muscle and reduced fat,
  • less anxiety and stress and increased self-esteem and overall energy levels, and
  • improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

From now through May 2002, the OSDH will participate with CDC's Children's Health Media Coalition to highlight the need for increased physical activity in childhood and adolescence. This focus will include two school years to increase awareness about obesity, nutrition and exercise. Let's get moving! We can shift the trend.


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