Today and again in two weeks all eyes will be on Beyonce Knowles as she performs at the inauguration and Super Bowl. As someone who has music from every solo album Beyonce has ever recorded, I can say that I have been a long time fan. So I never thought I would be giving people -- especially children and communities of color -- this piece of advice: do not listen to Beyonce.
It isn’t often that we get to see American teens in peak physical condition showcasing their athleticism on the world stage. So it was especially thrilling to watch the U.S. women’s gymnastics team—and other young Olympians—win gold at this summer’s London Olympics. Their achievements are an important reminder that it is still possible to be young and fit in America. But the sad fact is that the opportunity to be healthy is still eluding too many children and youth.
Barbara Smith, Author and B. Smith's Restaurant owner, discusses healthy foods and childhood obesity in our nation.
We’ve never needed safe play spaces in our communities more than we do now. Nearly a third of kids and adolescents in America – and two-thirds of adults – are overweight or obese.Many are urged to get more exercise but can’t follow this advice very easily where they live. Walking and bicycling are dangerous on roads designed for cars. Safe parks and playgrounds can be few and far between, especially in low-income communities.
What’s the most promising way to keep obesity prevention efforts going in this economic climate?
Strategies that are good for health and business alike.
The obesity crisis is threatening more than our health and our children’s well-being. It’s taking a major toll on our already fragile economy: costs associated with obesity total about $147 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity causes more than 15 percent of this country’s preventable deaths—more than alcohol, toxins, care accidents, gun-related deaths, drug abuse and STDs combined— and it causes a huge financial strain on the health care system.
The measurements of childhood obesity go beyond the scales, the doctors’ offices, and health care dollars. Overweight and obese children are underperforming in the classroom and on standardized tests. The support of policies and funding that would improve the health outcomes for 30 percent of our school aged children would help to elevate test scores, graduation rates and overall academic performance.
Educators, policymakers and government officials have been working tirelessly to improve the academic achievement of America’s children at the local, state and national level. Yet drastic budget cuts, larger classroom sizes, a shortage of quality teachers and a failing physical infrastructure of aging school buildings all contribute to the challenges faced when addressing the improvement of our children’s academic success. There is no one size fits all solution for this very big problem.
Every day we are bombarded with facts and figures that point to the poor health of people living in communities of color. We are more obese, our children are less likely to outlive their parents—the first time in history that this has happened. People of color are more likely to suffer from diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and stroke. Our zipcodes are more likely to predict our health outcomes, and how soon we will die. When I see this information I get mad. And I wonder where is the outrage that will bring about change.
When the Three Stooges attacked each other with hammers and eye-poking fingers, generations of TV-watchers found their antics to be funny but hardly something to emulate. Fat Albert and his legions of fans among minority children are a different story. His jolly demeanor and loveable nature are inseparably associated with his girth.