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Jen Van Den Elzen column: Positive news in the battle against obesity

5:40 PM, Sep. 13, 2013  |  Comments
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Over the last couple of months there seems to be quite a bit of good news from the frontlines of our nation's battle against the obesity epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made headlines when they declared that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers were declining for the first time in decades. Last month's F as in Fat report from the Trust for America's Health shared that despite a number of states having obesity rates over 30 percent, the rate of increase is slowing.

Since starting this column I've written about the power of your food dollar, the importance of creating a healthy food environment and involving your kids in their food choices. Now, as we are finally beginning to collectively see a light at the end of the tunnel in our efforts to decrease the burden of obesity on our community, more than ever we need to strengthen our efforts to support kids and adults alike in making healthy food choices.

Reports from the CDC and the media are showing us almost daily - we know what works. As we are beginning to see positive changes in the rates of obesity, we are also seeing something else. A Gallup poll recently reported a nine-percentage point decrease in Americans eating at fast food restaurants. Farm to School Programs are popping up nationwide as more schools work to incorporate farm fresh food into school meals. And, the USDA shared that Farmers Markets are on the rise - with the number more than quadrupling in the last two decades. Coincidence? Most likely not.

The positive reports are a good start, but we've still got a lot of work to do. While obesity rates in low-income preschoolers did in fact decline on the average, unfortunately here in Brown County are rates are still high. And the F as in Fat report also found that the proportion of adults that are more than 100 pounds overweight has increased over the last three decades. Estimates last year indicated that if we could just maintain our current rate of obesity nationwide, we would avoid $550 billion in extra health spending over the next two decades. But that's not good enough.

We don't want to just stay the same, we want to get better. We want our children to grow up healthy and happy and we want parents and grandparents to make healthy choices so that they can be there for their kids for years to come.

Let's use these recent positive reports as a catalyst to keep moving forward. Encourage your child's school to incorporate more physical activity into the school day. Support your local farmers market. Take advantage of menu labeling at restaurants and easy-to-understand nutritional information posted at the grocery store. Find out if your health insurance plan offers incentives for getting active and monitoring your health. After fighting the growing obesity rates and chronic disease for the last few decades, we know what works and we need to keep doing it.

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports