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Letter: Let’s make an investment in our children’s health

Letter to the Editor, The Chicago Tribune

As New Year’s resolutions kick in and “diet season” takes hold, I’d like to ask the Tribune editorial staff to send a message about health care to some apparently ill-informed couch potatoes in Springfield.

Case in point: Marshall Allen’s Jan. 2 op-ed headlined “Want to cut health care costs? Start with the obscene amount of waste.”

While there’s no arguing Allen’s premise, he misses the real starting point. The correct headline should be, “Want to cut health care costs? Start with the obscene number of overweight and obese kids.”

Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled. Nearly 1 in 3 children is overweight or obese, with the numbers even higher for African-American and Hispanic children.

Let’s Move, the organization founded by Michelle Obama in 2010, states that “if we don’t solve this problem, one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.”

PHIT America, a campaign dedicated to increasing physical activity and fitness to improve health, reports that 80 percent of children are at risk of disease due to physical inactivity. The organization says the decline and lack of emphasis on physical education is probably the most important factor affecting inactive lifestyles, with only 44 percent of all high schools requiring physical education. Plus, the median budget for physical education is a shocking $764 per year for an entire school.

So, what do our visionary elected officials in Springfield give us as a 2017 holiday present? They pass a new law that, according to the Tribune, “guts” daily physical education classes.

That’s quite a reversal by a state once viewed as a leader in public school physical education and widely considered the first state to require daily physical education.

In the spirit of the new year and our diet and exercise resolutions, let’s challenge our elected officials to get off the couch and exchange this most unfortunate holiday gift for a nice pair of gym shoes for our kids.

— Robert L. Klein, Deerfield

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