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Keeping MO Kids Off the Obesity Track

June 14, 2010

ST. LOUIS - Eating a little less and exercising quite a bit more are at the center of a new set of national guidelines aimed at keeping kids, in Missouri and across the country, off the path to obesity. The White House Childhood Obesity Task Force says children need every advantage they can get, including quality prenatal care, good nutrition and more physical activity.

Tonya Chang, advocacy director with the American Heart Association, puts figures on the problem.

"We have about 20 percent of young children under age five, that are overweight or obese, and about one in three children overall, are overweight or obese."

Chang says the guidelines also address the need to eliminate so-called "food deserts," areas where many healthy food options just aren't available.

"These are areas that could be in metropolitan communities or could be in very rural communities that don't have large grocery stores. Oftentimes they just have convenience stores that don't sell fresh fruits and vegetables."

The task force also places responsibility on schools, where kids spend so much of the day, to put greater emphasis on exercising bodies as well as minds.

"Over time, schools have gotten away from providing physical education and opportunities for physical activity."

The guidelines come as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. They say federal money should be made available for local improvements that allow kids to bike and walk safely in their neighborhoods, and that children should have safe access to parks, playgrounds and community centers.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO