Sunday, June 24, 2007

Need to Fight Fat

The NY Post has a disturbing story this morning on the obesity epidemic that threatens NYC children. The threat is particularly acute in the Bronx where, "25 percent of Bronx elementary school students are considered obese and more than 42 percent are overweight." This translates into about half of all of the children in the borough being super sized by a combination of unhealthy eating and the lack of exercise.

Clearly, something needs to be done here: "As BP Carrion says, "It doesn't take a health expert to realize that unless we get these kids exercising and on the right nutritional track now, we are going to be dealing with this issue 20 years from now when they are obese adults." And one elected official is doing just that. As we have been commenting all along, Joel Rivera, in collaboration with Dr. Mehmet Oz's Health Corps, is trying to reverse this frightening trend.

Rivera's obesity initiative received over three million dollars from the council budget, with the Health Corps getting over two million of the appropriation. The purpose of the HC is to create a sea change in health attitudes among the city's young people. The program targets high school kids because its goal is to create health activists who will become advocates for change in their communities.

In this way, the HC can become an important catalyst for school-based as well as community-based health initiatives. Often these other health programs are missing the kind of activist mindset that will energize participation at the local level. This hearts and minds side of the equation is the necessary complement to larger policy initiatives. We are happy to be part of this effort.