Unfortunately, we are a divided nation and seem to be moving further apart. With the presidential election fast approaching, a wide range of issues like homelessness, foreign policy, veteran affairs and health care are being discussed, with no one agreeing on anything. However, I think we can all agree that the health of our children is of the utmost importance. But the one topic that no one is talking about is obesity. This preventative disease is one of the most prolific killers in our country and is a contributing factor to 300,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
Obesity doesn’t discriminate, it affects us all and is now considered the single greatest threat to our children. In fact, experts fear that this generation of kids may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. More than 70% of adults are considered overweight or obese, as well as one in three American kids and teens. Obesity leads to serious ailments. It’s been linked to 60 chronic diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, heart disease and a variety of sleep disorders. With stats like these, you’d think obesity would make headlines every day, yet the silence is deafening.
Not only is obesity negatively affecting our children, it’s also adversely impacting our economy. According to the Milken Institute, chronic diseases related to obesity accounted for $480.7 billion in direct health care costs in the United States and $1.2 trillion more in indirect costs due to lost economic productivity.
While our politicians have sat quietly on the sidelines regarding the perilous risks of obesity, I’ve dedicated the last 40 years of my life to providing solutions for positive change. I’ve built a career helping Americans get and stay fit, but in order to make a systemic change, we must start with our children.
One of my solutions to fighting this disease was the creation of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, which helps motivate and inspire kids to make fitness a priority in their lives. Our program awards brand new state-of-the-art DON’T QUIT! fitness centers to elementary and middle schools across the country. We’ve already made our way into 32 states and have gifted hundreds of fitness centers to schools. It’s exciting to see governors in every state we’ve visited step up to help make a real difference.
I’ve always believed that if you give schools the tools, amazing things will happen. When given the opportunity and support, kids naturally strive to be more physically active. This year we will be delivering our fitness centers to schools in Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Alabama. I encourage Hoosiers to nominate their schools for a new fitness center. When kids build healthier, stronger bodies, they also gain an enormous amount of confidence and self-esteem. These are the true building blocks to helping our kids excel in school and in life.
Now, imagine how many more kids we could help if more of our political leaders would take action and champion the fight against childhood obesity? This isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s a kids’ issue. With all of us working together and taking action, we will create a healthier future for our kids and our great country!