Inside Opinion

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A grassroots counterattack on the obesity industry

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Most children face obstacles enough in life. Obesity – a preventable problem – shouldn’t be among them.

The Pierce County Health Department, YMCA, MultiCare and other community organizations deserve credit for their attack on childhood obesity, an epidemic of epic proportions in the United States.

Obesity isn’t merely being overweight; it’s being so overweight that grave problems are likely to arise from it – including heart disease, diabetes and, not least, bullying from classmates.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate of obesity among 6- to 11-year-olds rose from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Among 12- to 19-year-olds, the rate went from 5 percent to 18 percent. There’s no reason to think kids have gotten skinnier in the last four years.

Two factors are driving the trend: Eating junk and staring at screens. Fast food, snacks and sugary drinks pump the calories into them. The calories get packed away as fat when children spend hours a day parked in front of video games, television and computers.

Blame adults for most of this. They control what young children eat and how much time they spend gaping at pixels. In Washington, according to the CDC, roughly a third of all children aged 6 to 17 have televisions in their bedrooms. More than half of all high schools and middle schools provide ready access to high-calorie drinks and snacks during school hours.

A lot of these kids simply have the deck stacked against them.

But don’t underestimate the counter-attack. In the South Sound, a small host of organizations has been pushing back, often in close coordination.
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