May 29, 2008

Childhood Obesity Gets Complicated

Some kids are happy to be outside.

I stumbled upon this blog entry by Ona Balkus, one of the writers for A Generous Helping (the blog run by Operation Frontline). Some of our loyal readers might remember Ona from a post she wrote for us earlier this month. Talking about the need for more conversation on childhood obesity, Ona writes:
However, the Post series also affirms the need for larger, systemic improvements in our national food system. Even with education and a will to change, parents are still raising a generation of children awash in junk food commercials, afraid to play outside, cut off from sufficient P.E. classes and relying on vending machines as their main food source at school. This needs to be a policy priority in all levels of government through a variety of means, including education, marketing, food subsidies, and financial aid.

I often forget how important safe outdoor spaces are to our discussion of childhood obesity. I think it's on Jay-Z's Black Album that he has him mom testify that she bought him a boombox so he would stay inside. Or, I think she says, "that was my way to keep him close to me, and out of trouble." It comes as a surprise to no one that the poorest neighborhoods are also the least secure, and that less security means more drug traffic and more gang influence, two things a parent would (I imagine) want to avoid.

Coupled with video games that can offer limitless distraction, I'm sure the amount of time kids spend outside is far less than many would like. It hadn't occurred to me that some of these bad habits are actually encouraged by parents who are afraid of something worse outside.

I don't know if there's a quick fix for that.