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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 2894

Location: Washington, DC



S. 2894. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the coordination of Federal Government policies and activities to prevent obesity in childhood, to provide for State childhood obesity prevention and control, and to establish grant programs to prevent childhood obesity within homes, schools, and communities; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, it's an honor to introduce the "Prevention of Childhood Obesity Act". The goal of this legislation is to deal more effectively with the growing health epidemic of obesity now faced by millions of children today. Currently, 9,000,000 children have this chronic condition, and it's putting them at high risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other preventable diseases. In addition, obese children frequently grow up to become obese adults, and they impose at least 11 billion dollars in medical costs on the nation each year.

Childhood obesity is the direct result of too much food and too little physical activity. One of the results is the epidemic now plaguing the nation. Children watch over 40,000 food advertisements on television a year-one food commercial every minute, urging them to eat large helpings of candy, snacks, fast foods and cereal high in sugar.

Young students have access to vending machines that now put high-fat or high-sugar snacks and beverages in them. Yet they have no opportunity for physical activity or instruction in physical education. They live in neighborhoods with instant access to fast foods, but no supermarket, no outdoor produce stand, or few fruits and vegetables. These same neighborhoods also have no bike paths, sidewalks, tracks for walking or running, and no parks or open spaces.

The result is millions of children without nutritious foods, a safe physical environment, that allows them to be active, and healthy information. Today, only 2 percent of the nation's children meet Department of Agriculture standards for daily intake. Less than a third meet the recommended guidelines for exercise, and millions have developed obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, regular physical activity and healthy eating and a positive environment for such behavior are essential factors in reducing the epidemic of obesity. Our legislation focuses, therefore, on coordinating federal, state, community and school efforts to see that our children have access to a healthy environment.

This bill appoints a federal commission to see that Federal food policies promote good nutrition. Guidelines for food and physical activity advertisements will be established by a summit conference of representatives from education, industry, and health care.

At the State level, the bill provides grants and coordinates efforts by the states to implement and evaluate ways to prevent obesity. It offers grants for early childhood activities and school and after-school programs, and for developing curricular, training educators, and implementing policies to reduce poor foods, increase physical education, and help communities build sidewalks, bike trails, and create parks that encourage healthy activity and sports.

We know that regular physical activity and healthy eating can prevent childhood obesity. We need a coordinated and focused nationwide effort to halt this health epidemic facing millions of children, and prevent the chronic diseases and unnecessary suffering that afflict millions of children today. It's time for Congress to do its part, and I urge my colleagues to support us.

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