More than nine million children in the United States are overweight, a figure that has tripled since the 1970s. Overweight children are more likely to suffer psychological and physical health problems in their youth, and those problems are likely to follow them to adulthood. Obesity may be the number-one health problem facing children today.
That was the message delivered in Washington today by Amy B. Jordan, director of the Media and the Developing Child sector of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Jordan and an expert panel briefed Senate staff members on Capitol Hill on the problem of childhood obesity as well as new research findings published this month in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
“The problem of childhood overweight has reached near-epidemic proportions in the United States,” wrote Jordan in a preface to the volume, which also includes papers by other researchers, practitioners and policymakers. Jordan served as special editor of the volume.
Sens. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, and Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, provided comments. In their remarks, the Senators, who co-chair the Federal Communications Commission Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, urged the food, entertainment, advertising and communications industries to develop solutions to this public health problem.
The briefing was held to explore ways in which public policy can address the critical issue of obesity among children. Ideas include encouraging more physical activity, altering advertising messages to promote healthy eating habits, restricting food and beverage marketing in schools and enhancing nutrition labeling.
Panelists joining Jordan at the briefing were Phyllis Kaniss, executive director of the American Academy of Political and Social Science; William Dietz, director of the division of nutrition and physical activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Amy Hillier, assistant professor, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania; and Kyung Rhee, assistant professor of medicine, Brown University.
Among those attending were representatives of Sens. Evan Bayh, Daniel Inouye, Barbara Milkulski, Max Baucus, Christopher Dodd and Elizabeth Dole, as well as representatives of the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Campaign to End Obesity.