Childhood obesity proposal
Topeka Obesity among children has become an epidemic, officials said Monday, and should be addressed where they spend much of their time - in school.
"Physical inactivity is killing our children," said Kim Morrissey, a physical education teacher at a Wichita elementary school.
A parade of health officials and instructors urged the Legislative Educational Planning Committee to craft a package of reforms to increase physical education and nutrition instruction.
The panel said it would consider the suggestions when it makes a recommendation to the 2008 Legislature.
Childhood obesity "is a problem that is literally getting out of control," said state health officer Dr. Howard Rodenberg.
Nearly a quarter of high school students and nearly one third of elementary school students are overweight, he said. Annual health care costs associated with obesity in Kansas are about $650 million.
State Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, and others suggested focusing on middle schools, where physical education is not required.
"At the middle school level, that is where the data shows that kids are really packing it on," she said.
Colloton has proposed $500,000 in middle school grants for professional development of physical education teachers and teaching materials.
Although health officials have sought legislation aimed at childhood obesity, lawmakers last session were not enthusiastic, citing concerns about increasing mandates and getting involved in parental decisions.
But Colloton believes there will be support for the grants.
"When an individual health problem reaches epidemic proportions, there is a responsibility for the state to act in areas where the individual cannot," Colloton said.
State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence and a member of the Educational Planning Committee, agreed.
"I'm very much hoping that the Legislature does address fitness in our schools. I also have heard before that if you get physical activity then you do better at learning," Francisco said. "We really need to embrace that if we can."