Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation today aimed at tackling one of Colorado and the nation's fastest-growing problems: childhood obesity. Udall, who has worked to encourage healthy lifestyles and outdoor recreation, developed the legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in consultation with the Campaign to End Obesity and Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan organization of senior retired military leaders calling for smart investments in America's children.
"Colorado is the healthiest state in the nation, but even we must confront one of our fastest-growing problems: our waistlines. Obesity and obesity-related illnesses are costing us billions of dollars each year to treat. And obesity is more than a health issue -- it hurts our national security," Udall said. "Nearly three-quarters of all young people are ineligible to serve in the armed forces, often because they cannot meet basic military weight and fitness standards. My bipartisan bill will address this problem in a way that helps young people to be more active and educated about how their choices affect their future."
"The shortage of safe playing spaces is a major barrier many communities have to overcome to provide children with opportunities to participate in organized sports and other physical activity," said Ed Foster-Simeon, a member of the Campaign to End Obesity's Board of Directors. "The proposed legislation facilitating joint-use agreements between military facilities and their surrounding communities helps address this problem and also educates potential recruits on the importance of active healthy lifestyles as a key to maintaining healthy weight."
The legislation would authorize military leaders to open up their bases' sports fields, gyms and other facilities to youth who need a place to exercise. The bill would also encourage the Department of Defense to make information about healthy body mass indexes and fitness available to potential recruits.
Udall, a lifelong outdoorsman and avid mountain climber, has been a longtime advocate for healthy lifestyles and physical fitness. He launched the "National Kids to Parks" campaign in 2011 and introduced the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act. Udall also wrote about this issue in a recent Denver Post op-ed, where he noted that obesity-related illnesses cost the country billions of dollars each year.