Why are kids getting fatter?
Kids are getting fat in BC. Heck, our whole baby-boomer skewed population is getting fatter – but the growing tummies under the Spiderman t-shirts among the school-age set is particularly troubling.
This is simply not just an aesthetic issue. By letting our kids eat too much of the wrong things and not get the exercise they should be having we are setting them up for a lifetime of completely preventable, potential health problems including diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.
The question that this epidemic of chubbiness raises is should we be doing something to reduce the inevitable crisis for the public health care system – or do we leave nutrition and activity decisions to parents?
During the election campaign, the BC Liberals promised to eliminate junk food from BC schools within four years. Most school districts in this province, with the exception of Vernon, Okanagan and now this week, Abbotsford, bring in additional funds for sports teams or extra-curricular activities with vending machines stocked with chips, pop and chocolate bars.
School districts know that children shouldn’t be eating this stuff – and many are taking steps to explore funding of their athletic teams or class trips with alternatives including water, juice, and fruit bars.
But this is only one element of the problem. While I applaud schools for the work that they are doing to reduce access to these foods during the day, what else should we be doing to help our kids step away from their computer games and put down the cookie jars?
Is this something that we leave to parents? They are their kids after all – and most of us don’t take kindly to governments pushing propaganda on how to live our lives.
If you are like me, you believe that people are perfectly capable of making the right choices about their lives – given full and complete information. We don’t need governments to ban certain “bad” foods and we don’t need governments to institute mandatory daily exercise sessions.
This is one of the worst aspects of universal health care – parents aren’t confronted with the financial consequences of their unwillingness to deal with their kids’ fat problems. If they had to assume the full cost of caring for their child’s expensive diabetes or heart disease crisis, they might think twice about filling up their grocery carts with convenient, but potentially health-threatening, foods.
Because, at the bottom of it all, parents need to take responsibility for their kids’ health –we can’t leave it to the schools and we can’t leave it to government.
While we no longer throw our kids out the door at 9am and tell them to be back for dinner at 6pm, like when we were kids in earlier, safer times, we can make choices that will keep them healthy. We can have walks after dinner, choose fruit and yogurt over cookies and cakes, and turn the TV off – at our house we’re just coming off a successful TV-free June, so I know it can be done.
Government’s role should be to educate, but it is parents who need to get off their butts, remind themselves that pizza and fast food are treats not staples, and re-acquaint their kids with fruits and vegetables.
None of us want to see our entire public health care system crash under the weight of our fat kids.
(As published today in 24 Hours Daily)