Fit Families N.C., a 19-member committee commissioned by the
North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund
, said the state must find ways to prevent obesity before further damage occurs.
The group's more-than-yearlong study on the causes of obesity among children found that the number of seriously overweight children in North Carolina has tripled over the last two decades, including children among the preschool population. According to its findings, one in eight children between the age of 2 and 4 is overweight.
Fit Families's mission is to raise awareness about the obesity epidemic. This year already, several new laws took effect to keep children fit.
Beginning with the 2006-2007 school year, kindergarten through eighth-grade students will be required to participate in 30 minutes of physical activity every day. New stricter guidelines are also in place on what can be sold in school vending machines, and there are new nutritional guidelines for meals sold in school cafeterias.
Still, committee members believe there is much more to do. They want the State Health plan and others groups to include obesity prevention and treatment services for children and their families. They want nutrition and physical activity standards developed for day cares and before- and after-school child care programs.
The study also recommends sending a letter to federal regulatory authorities asking them to limit national youth-targeted advertising of unhealthy food and beverages.
North Carolina taxpayers spend an estimated $2 billion each year on obesity-related medical expenses. Nationwide, companies spend $13 billion.
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