The Task Force for the Promotion of Children’s Health has released its recommendations for the establishment of Healthy and Fit School Advisory Councils in Oklahoma schools. The list of recommendations includes suggestions about physical education and physical activity, nutritional education and services, as well as health education and health services.
Senate Bill 1627, also known as the Healthy and Fit Kids Act of 2004, authored by Sen. Bernest Cain and Rep. Darrell Gilbert, requires the establishment of the advisory councils in every school.
“Childhood obesity has increased 100% in the last twenty years and something has to change. We wanted to give some concrete ideas to our local councils to help get them started in their efforts and we hope these suggestions will do that,” said Sen. Cain, Chair of the Senate Human Resources Committee. “We have to remember that this isn’t just a problem for schools or for parents. The health of our youth is everyone’s responsibility and we all have to work together to ensure their well-being.”
Statistics from the 2004 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that Oklahoma ranks just under the national average for overweight children, while exceeding the national average in the percentage of females who are at risk of being overweight as adults. Oklahoma is also under the national average for the number of students enrolled in physical education classes.
“We’ve been working for three years to get some meaningful legislation passed to help our youth; and finally with the help of the privately sponsored Fit Kids Coalition, we got SB 1627 passed,” said Dr. John Bozalis, Task Force Chair and Chair of the Schools for Healthy Lifestyles. “This is the first piece of legislation voted on by our Legislature that has been championed by several organizations that are deeply interested in the promotion of our children’s health. This is just the first step in restoring better health in our youth.”
According to the State Department of Health, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Some possible health risks associated with obesity are heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers and arthritis. Besides the health risks, overweight youth also face social discrimination stemming from low self-esteem and depression.
“We can’t make decisions for each individual child, so it only made sense to put this project in the hands of the local communities,” said Rep. Gilbert, House Human Services Committee Chair. “Those individuals are better suited to determine and meet the needs for improving their youth’s health and well-being. We realize, though, that the schools can’t do this alone, but through our combined efforts we can make a significant impact in the lives of our children.”