Physical Education Group Targets Childhood Obesity
An advocacy group for physical education released a blueprint last week for tackling the problem of childhood obesity, which a new study suggests is associated with an increase in high blood pressure among young Americans.
Known as P.E.4LIFE, the national organization outlined a plan that includes: revitalizing schools’ physical education programs by making exercise more fun for children through a 10-step "blueprint for change"; lobbying for more federal funding for the group’s physical education grant program, which received $70 million from Congress for the current fiscal year; and firmly establishing a Center for the Advancement of Physical Education within the next two years.
"If you look closely at what’s happening today, it’s starting to get scary," said Jeff Blumenfeld, a spokesman for the Washington- based P.E.4LIFE, which was formed in 2000 and promotes daily high-quality physical education for children. "For the first time," he said, "kids’ life expectancy could be shorter than their parents’. ... Before, we were focused on [preventing] smoking. Now, we have to focus on obesity as the problem."
The group’s plan for physical education was announced in Washington on May 5, the same day a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that connects the rise of childhood obesity in the United States with the increase of high blood pressure among the nation’s children and adolescents.
Although the study says that confirmation of the findings is needed, it predicts that since the rate of overweight children continues to climb, so will the occurrence of hypertension in children. It also calls for, among other steps, "increased physical activity" to help halt the problem.
The study, by researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans and the Bethesda, Md.-based National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, examined the results from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys focusing on more than 5,000 children ages 8 to 17 over seven years.
Vol. 23, Issue 36, Page 3