Healthy Kids From Day One Act Would Address Inactivity, Fight Childhood Obesity

Sponsor of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act introduces new bill to help reverse 'indoor child' trend

02-16-2012 // Max Greenberg
Family hike

A longtime champion of measures to get America’s kids outside and moving has initiated another plan to make sure the indoor childhood scourge is short-lived.

Senator Mark Udall (CO), lead sponsor of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act focused on getting kids outside, introduced the Healthy Kids from Day One Act today to establish a pilot program to address obesity and inactivity among young children.

The three-year program will initially operate in five states, supporting "child care collaboratives designed to reduce the prevalence of overweight/obesity among children from birth to age 5" by focusing on healthy eating, physical activity and reducing screen time.

“America’s children are increasingly glued to televisions and other screens, and they spend less time outdoors than any generation in human history,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, director of education advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “Senator Udall’s legislation will help reverse this trend at an early age by reducing screen time and getting kids playing outdoors once again.”

"Childhood obesity doesn't just lead to health problems for American families; the rising costs of treating and living with obesity-related illnesses strains family budgets and our entire economy and, with one in four military recruits being rejected for being overweight, it even puts our national security at risk. While this is a growing crisis for our country, it's one we can slow down and even reverse if we work together," Sen. Udall said in a statement. "My bill recognizes that in order to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, we must reach children in as many settings as possible, and particularly in the places where they live, learn and play."

Addressing a Growing Problem

According to the CDC, approximately 13 million U.S. children and adolescents are obese, a rate that has tripled since 1980. Childhood obesity health expenses are estimated at $14 billion annually.

In addition to helping reduce the chances of childhood obesity and associated health problems, trading indoor time for active outdoor time has been shown to diminish symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, stimulate brain development and help kids sleep better.

Under the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services would award competitive grants to help reduce and prevent childhood obesity and encourage parental engagement in child care settings. It dovetails with the Senate and House versions of the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act, introduced last November by Sen. Udall and Rep. Ron Kind (WI) to support state, local and federal strategies to connect youth and families with the natural world. That bill was also drafted with an eye toward improving children’s health.

National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There campaign seeks to reverse the ‘indoor child’ epidemic and bolster American kids’ relationship with nature. NWF is also part of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with the common interest in expanding the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.

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