Oklahoma health officials battle childhood obesity

Tuesday, August 23rd 2005, 10:30 am
By: News On 6

Fighting the battle of the bulge, waist lines are expanding like never before in Oklahoma and national officials blame poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

The Trust for America's Health says nearly a quarter of all Oklahomans are obese, making us the 14th fattest state in the nation. News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains how some health experts are trying to tackle the problem early.

The school cafeteria is where lots of kids get two of their three meals a day, so Tulsa Public Schools has worked hard to beef up its nutrition program. "We don't want to have that finger pointed at us. We don't want the kids to be unhealthy and we take it very seriously when we know that their health is in our hands so we make sure we meet the dietary goals and recommendations. And make sure they have a good foundation for their bodies and minds, because they are here to learn." Lisa Griffin says school nutrition has changed in her 20-plus years with Tulsa Public Schools. "More offering of fruits and vegetables definitely. We're going towards whole grains. Less fat, less sugar, less sodium, and trying to make it more tasty too. Because kids are used to eating out, and so they have a certain taste they want."

Student Collin Williams: "I brought fruit streamers a sandwich, Capri sun, pretzels, and well, whatever these are."

Tami Marler: "Chocolate something. Looks really good because it's got a marshmallow in it." Collin Williams: "Yeah”

"Chocolate milk, apple juice, corn and pizza." 9 year-old Andrew Cook did opt for a hot lunch, part of a fitness regimen he's learning from his parents. "Like run around outside, ride my bike and play outside with my friends."

Twice a week, exercise and nutrition continues in Mrs. Sims' PE class, but staying fit is more than just diet and exercise.

At Hillcrest Exercise and Lifestyle Programs, they teach kids and their families about a host of issues that factor in to obesity. “We try to figure out the why. What the household habits are. If it's fast food, if it's watching too much TV, if it's not enough time with the parents, and we approach those things very gently with people." Maria Covington says today's high-tech society is driving our children to a sedentary lifestyle.

Health policy analysts maintain that obesity increases the burden on taxpayers because it requires the Medicare and Medicaid programs to cover the treatment of diseases caused by obesity.

The report issued Tuesday said taxpayers spent $39-billion in 2003 for the treatment of conditions attributable to obesity.