National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Policy changes underway in Ky. to lower its very high childhood obesity rate

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and a number of policy changes are underway to combat the increasing trend of overweight children in America and Kentucky, where one in three kids are on their way to developing Type 2 diabetes.

Kentucky suffers from one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, tying Mississippi for the highest percentage of youth in grades 9 to 12 that are obese (18 percent). It has the third highest percentage of children ages 10 to 17 who are obese (21 percent), compared to 16.4 percent nationally, says a report by Kentucky’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

The state’s efforts to lower childhood obesity rates include two important studies for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services – “Shaping Kentucky’s Future: Policies to Reduce Obesity” and “Unbridled Health: A Plan for Coordinated Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.” These reports contain policy recommendations for work communities, corporations, schools and the state itself to help Kentuckians eat healthy and exercise, The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky says in a news release.

“Lowering childhood obesity rates is a positive lever for overall health change, reduced risk of chronic disease and an improved quality of life,” said Susan Zepeda, president of the foundation. “Foundation polling and recent news reports signal growing awareness among Kentuckians of the importance of and the need for lowering our obesity rates.”

Nationally, the recent report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013” provides recommendations that could improve health in Kentucky and across the country with funding and effective implementation, including:
 · All food in schools must be healthy
 · Kids should have opportunities to be physically active on a regular basis
 · Restaurants should post calorie information on menus
 · Only healthy products should be marketed to children
 · Transportation plans should encourage walking and biking
 · Everyone should be able to purchase healthy, affordable foods close to home

“Here at home, Kentucky will host the Southern Obesity Summit in 2014 and several organizations are hard at work to advance health policies that support sound nutrition and active living at work, at school and in our communities,” said Zepeda. “These efforts create opportunities to discuss strategy and create more awareness of the compelling need to reduce childhood obesity rates in the commonwealth.”

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