Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Illinois ranks 10th for Obese Children but Chicagoans Boast Numerous Opportunities for Fitness

The state of Illinois has been a hot topic in the media this year following the election of President Barack Obama, but endured increasingly negative publicity in the wake of the impeachment of Governor Blagojevich. Recently, Illinois faced more unfortunate press coverage, this time related to health and wellness.

According to a report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Illinois has the 10th highest percent nationally for obese children and one in five Illinois children (20.7 %) is obese. Another 14.2% are overweight. Although Illinois adults fared better than the children in the national ranking, the high number of unhealthy kids suggests that the state is not doing enough to target youngsters in wellness education. The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago’s Children suggests five major ways to reform the current legislature to enhance wellness among young Chicagoans to lead to a healthier future:

1. Create an Illinois Food Policy Council to increase the production, distribution, access to and consumptions of healthy food.
2. Reform the physical education waiver process to allow for greater individual involvement among parents, organizations, and lawmakers to increase PE requirements in school.
3. Give $3 million to the Illinois Obesity Study and Prevention Fund to allow for state-wide infrastructure of obesity prevention.
4. Include Nutrition and Physical Activity Standards in the mandate of the Illinois Early Learning Council to instill positive habits from a young age.
5. Establish a statewide Safe Routes to Schools and Parks program to enhance pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure.

While Illinois adults rank 27th nationally for obesity, the growing number of overweight children spells out trouble for the future health of the state. Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are three diseases that often go hand in hand with unhealthy living. As a result, Illinois can expect a severe increase in health care costs as the children of the state grow up.

Although Illinois has a somewhat bleak health forecast, the city of Chicago offers some hope. Praised as “one of the coolest running paths in the nation” Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive offers up to 20 miles of paved, pedestrian-friendly asphalt. With endless opportunities to bike, Rollerblade, scooter, walk, and run, Lake Shore Drive offers Chicagoans an enticing environment for healthy living.

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