What was it like when you were a kid?
What games did you play? Did you walk or ride a bike to school? And when school broke for lunch--what did you eat?
Many of us remember childhood as a time of freedom. Our activities changed with the seasons. In summer, there were fast-paced outdoor games, swimming and a hundred other ways to spend those lazy dog days. Fall meant school, but it also brought apple picking, pumpkin carving and pranks at Halloween. Winter meant sledding, building snowmen, playing with your siblings (or perhaps just doing your best to annoy them), or learning to chop wood with your dad. And spring, of course, meant that summer was just around the corner.
Sound idyllic? Perhaps.
But ask anyone over twenty and they'll probably tell you that's how they spent their days. Ask anyone over fifty and you might even hear harrowing tales of walking nine miles to school ... uphill ... both ways ... in snow.
However, for many American children today most of their time is spent indoors, whether it's watching television, playing video games, instant messaging or talking on cell phones. And at a time when food is more plentiful in America than ever, with prepackaged, calorie-packed fast foods available in every city, suburb and small town, it's no surprise that many children's figures are changing with their habits.
This month's Special Report--Fighting Childhood Obesity covers an issue that may be surprising to some, but all too real to others. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about one in five children in the United States is considered overweight. This Special Report is not intended to single out overweight kids or parents, or try to lecture anyone about how--or what--they should eat. The articles included here are designed to inform: of what America's children are eating, what's in the food they're eating, and perhaps most importantly, what they're being served for lunch at school. Considering the long-term consequences (overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults), it's an issue that affects us all.
"The Rising Epidemic of Childhood Obesity," presented by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides a detailed outline of the current state of children's health when concerning their weight. Citing study after study, this article shows that since the 1970s "the number of adolescents who are overweight has tripled since 1980 and the prevalence among younger children has more than doubled." This article provides insight into some of the causes of this startling rise in obesity, from socioeconomic issues to advertising to the state of America's "disappearing sidewalks." In addition, the article cites evidence that children are spending less and less time being active. "Exercise is an important part of children's health," says Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan, a pediatric surgeon with Holy Cross Hospital and Children's National Medical Center. Still, "less than 36 percent of elementary and secondary schools offer daily physical education classes."
Many schools, however, have taken notice. In the article "No More Sugar! …