By Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) - 04/27/10 08:42 PM EDT
Let’s face it; Americans have been leading unhealthy, sedentary lives for too long. Seventy-three percent of adults and 43 percent of children in this country are overweight, obese, or severely obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity accounted for $147 billion in U.S. medical expenses in 2008, pushing healthcare costs further out of control. It also affects the workplace and well-being.
Millions of Americans struggle with the effects of obesity every
day. We cannot afford to let the obesity epidemic go unchecked.
That’s why I’m committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice,
with the Healthy CHOICES Act. This is not a top-down approach, nor does
it include any government mandates. This is about healthier choices in
our schools, in our grocery stores and in our neighborhoods, providing
the tools, education, and opportunities to help Americans make choices
that meet the needs of their families.
This starts with recognizing signs of obesity in our children and
working to treat and prevent unhealthy lifestyle choices at a young
age. Establishing body mass index as a vital sign will help parents
identify when their child is at, or approaching, an unhealthy weight.
Expanding treatment and prevention programs helps doctors and families
tackle unhealthy habits at all ages and helps kids and adults live
longer, healthier lives.
Americans today are busier than ever, and it’s sometimes quicker and
easier to make the unhealthy choice. The Healthy CHOICES Act changes
that. It is my priority to make sure Americans have access to healthy
choices where they live, learn, work and play.
Increasing accessibility to healthy food will help families know
what they are eating and will help them get the food they need to fuel
their bodies. Updated nutritional guidelines will help kids find
healthier foods at after-school and day care programs, more produce in
urban grocery stores will provide accessibility in low-income
neighborhoods, and nutrition label education will assist busy shoppers
in making informed decisions. Studies show that people who eat local
food often eat more healthy food. Grants for community gardens and
local farmers markets will help provide an outlet for families to
access fresh, affordable produce on a regular basis.
Increased opportunities for physical activity will also help
families lead a more active lifestyle and help prevent and control
illness and disease. Today, with too few safe and efficient bike and
pedestrian paths and fewer places to play outside, many kids turn to
video games, computers and TV. We must put thought and resources into
building safe places for children to play, safe routes for them to
travel to school, and more facilities for physical activity in our
communities. We must also work to promote new wellness programs in
workplaces across the country. We also know it’s hard to develop a
healthy mind without a healthy body, so as children face the real
health and social tolls of obesity – our K-12 programs must make
physical education a staple of the school day.
We all know obesity is a concern in every community across our
nation. But by working together with a concerted, strategic policy, we
can take better care of ourselves, confront this epidemic, and realize
a decline in our healthcare costs. This is something we must do, so
that our children can live their lives to their greatest potential.
Kind is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. Throughout his time in Congress, Rep. Kind has worked to get our population healthy and moving, authoring the recently House-passed FIT Kids Act in the 110th Congress and currently authoring the Healthy CHOICES Act, a comprehensive approach to the obesity epidemic. Rep. Kind received the Champion Award from the Campaign to End Obesity in both 2008 and 2009 and the Congressional Health and Fitness Award from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association in 2010.