First, some facts and figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
• Obesity among children and adolescents has nearly tripled over the past 30 years -- from just over 6 percent in 1980 to about 17 percent today.
• Nearly half of U.S. middle and high schools allow advertising of less healthy foods while advertising for healthier foods is "almost nonexistent in comparison."
• Only a third of high school students participate in daily physical education classes nationwide. Less than 20 percent achieve the government's recommended 60 minutes of aerobic physical activity every day.
• Overweight children tend to become overweight adults.
• Weight problems are directly associated with coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, hypertension, stroke, sleep problems and other conditions that essentially add up to a shorter, less happy life.
Now add these startling numbers from Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54. Last year, 28 percent of kindergartners and 38 percent of sixth-graders were overweight.
It's easy to see that weight issues are both a growing problem and a local problem, and a coalition of public and private agencies in the Schaumburg area is launching a new initiative to attack it. Good for them.
Schaumburg Children -- Activity -- Nutrition, or Schaumburg CAN, begins the first of a two-year operation with a $12,000 grant whose ultimate goal is nothing short of, in the words of Gary Bublitz, CEO of Schaumburg's Campanelli YMCA, "changing a policy system and environment." That's a big job for just 12,000 bucks, even for the additional 40,000 bucks the program expects to use in its second year.
So, organizers are going to have to be efficient with their resources. They'll need support from throughout the community and a well thought-out plan of action. With the participation of the village of Schaumburg, the Schaumburg parks, Schaumburg Township, Harper College, Alexian Brothers hospitals, Children's Home and Aid and the District 54 PTA Council, the group is off to a good start. May we also be so bold as to suggest that they use the District 54 weight data to lay the groundwork for a database of figures that can help them continuously measure their progress and promote their mission to become self-sustaining beyond the initial two years.
Whatever Schaumburg CAN's ultimate direction, we're eager to endorse its goals. Good adult health starts with healthy habits established in childhood. And poor adult health habits, we all know only too well, are doubly difficult to reverse. Let's hope CAN's efforts produce not only healthier young people in Schaumburg but also inspiration and activities for other towns to create healthy habits in an entire new generation.