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America's supersized children

Millions of Americans fight a lifelong battle with weight, which increasingly is beginning in childhood. Research indicates that there is an 80 percent chance an overweight adolescent will grow up to become an obese adult, and that in the United States more than 300,000 deaths every year can be attributed to obesity and excess weight.

Visit our Opinions and Deliberations page and let us know where you stand on this critical health issue!

We’ve heard for years about America’s problem with girth control, and multiple solutions have been proposed. Some point their fingers at the country’s $17-billion school lunch program, which feeds 32 million children every day. Nearly 40 percent of students who receive a school-prepared lunch are already overweight.

The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, seeks to reduce childhood obesity to just five percent of the population by 2030. The task force makes 70 recommendations to reach this goal.

Others want to hold the fast-food industry responsible. This month, the Santa Clara (Calif.) County government banned restaurants from promoting high-calorie children's meals with free toys. A Lehigh study released in 2008 showed that a ban on fast-food advertisements in the United States could reduce the number of overweight children by as much as 18 percent.

If physical issues aren’t enough of an incentive to address this issue, consider the psychological: A new study released this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association says the odds of being bullied are 63 percent higher for obese children  than for kids with healthy weights.

Some activists propose taxes to settle the problem in cities like New York and Philadelphia, where levies of a penny per ounce on a 12-ounce can could raise $160 billion in 10 years. One study says an 18-percent increase in the cost of soda could save the average American about five pounds a year.

Nutritionists, government officials, politicians and activists have tried other solutions: from substantial tax hikes on junk food to reductions in fast-food advertising. People are also looking at the private and public sectors to play a larger role. Where, then, does that leave personal responsibility in making choices about food, exercise and consumption?

Let us know what you think. Nearly 20 percent of children are obese in the United States, which will pay up to $147 billion this year on obesity-related health issues. What solutions would you propose?

Is this a matter that could and should be addressed only by individuals, or can government intervention help?

Visit the Opinions and Deliberations page to submit your comments, and learn more about the latest national news stories tackling the issue. The page includes resources about obesity and how it can be treated and prevented, as well as links to campus offices that can provide help and counseling to members of the Lehigh community.

 

Story by Tom Yencho

Posted on Friday, May 14, 2010

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