Last Modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 7:33 PM
Will Louisiana lawmakers pass legislation promoting exercise and limiting sedentary time in day care facilities?
Fat chance, critics say.
The House Committee on Health & Welfare has deferred action on House Bill 993, authored by State Rep. Patrick C. Williams, D-Shreveport, which appeared to offer good first steps in mandating healthy habits for children in day care. For example, the bill would have mandated no more than 60 minutes in front of an electronic device, which would include a TV set, devices that play movies or videos, computers, video game devices or a handheld electronic device.
Moreover, the bill would have mandated that at least an hour a day be set aside for physical activity. Specific guidelines for activities would have been developed by the Louisiana Advisory Council on Child Care and Early Education by year’s end.
The bill may not be perfect, but it surely is worth discussion and improvement. That’s because obesity and childhood obesity — and all of their myriad, related problems — are all around us, especially in Louisiana.
The national Institute of Medicine this week suggested schools play a major role in fighting childhood obesity because school is where children spend most of their days and eat many of their meals. The same might be said for child care. The institute made plain that the problem is not just a matter of individual choice, but it is a matter of wide social concern. Obese people suffer a variety of maladies, which drain our medical resources and undercut our strength as a nation.
Obesity is a critical problem in Louisiana, and childhood obesity is especially problematic here. Louisiana’s overall obesity rate is 34.6, well above the national average of 28 percent. Calcasieu Parish’s obesity rate is 37.3 — higher still — and the city’s obesity rate is 37.7. So the problem, according to those 2009 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is apparent.
Carl Comeaux, co-chair of the Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana, wrote recently in these pages that our state’s children rank fourth in obesity in the U.S., adding, “They join a growing number of young people who cannot expect to outlive their parents due to the obesity and its health effects.” Every responsible, loving parent wants more than that for his or her own children.
Every Louisianian has a role to play in promoting good health, starting with their own responsibility to eat healthy foods in proper servings and to exercise. Parents should take care to instill healthy habits in their children.
But schools and day cares — that’s where young people spend much of their time — also have a role to play. Our lawmakers would do well to offer careful guidance.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.