NWF Asks Surgeon General to Make Outdoor Time for Kids A Priority

Groups petition Surgeon General to issue a “Call- to- Action” to promote the health benefits of getting kids outside

02-03-2010 // Mary Burnette
Boy pulling his sled

The U.S. Surgeon General is our nation’s leading health czar which is why the National Wildlife Federation is asking Dr. Regina Benjamin to issue a “Call- to- Action” to promote the health benefits of getting kids outside and engaged in regular unstructured play time in the great outdoors. Along with over 200 health, conservation and youth organizations, NWF is urging the Surgeon General to make time outdoors a health priority for children.

NWF’s petition to Dr. Benjamin is just the most recent in a series of events calling attention to the health hazards of todays “inside kid”. Early this month, Dr. Benjamin joined First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Health and human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to announce plans for a healthier America through regular physical activity and better nutrition. Getting our nation’s children unplugged and into nature should be an integral part of that vision.

Today’s children have less contact with nature than any previous generation. A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the average American child (ages 8-18) now spends almost 8 hours a day watching electronic entertainment media; TV, computers, video games etc. That’s more than the equivalent of a full-time work week. At the same time, others studies show that kids spend an average of 4 minutes a day playing outside! This imbalance is costing our children their health.

At a press conference held by NWF, doctors pointed out some of the health risks children today are facing including obesity, higher stress and depression levels, higher levels of type 2 diabetes, shorter attention spans, increased aggressive behavior, and poor eyesight.

Dr. Kimberly Edwards, who spoke at the press conference, said “the childhood obesity epidemic is one of the greatest health challenges we face. Physical activity, outside in fresh air, plays a critical role in treatment and prevention of pediatric and adult issues.”

Becky Garland, director of NWF’s Be Out There Campaign believes NWF’s citizen petition to Dr. Benjamin marks a dramatic partnership around the common goal of getting America’s children healthy again and reconnected with nature. Everyone concerned about the health of our kids urge Dr. Benjamin to issue a clarion call to reconnect children with outdoor physical activity and good health.

At the same time, NWF encourages parents to make the Be Out There Resolution to give their children more outdoor play time. When you make the Resolution you can get all kinds of cool ideas, tips and suggestions for making outdoor time fun for your children. This is one time out your kids will really enjoy. Start by pulling the plug and saying “Go outside and play” the way our mothers did. Mom really did know best.

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