It’s no secret that obesity is a very serious problem facing America today. Anyone walking with their eyes open can tell that we, as a nation, are growing larger and larger. We’re not as physically active as we once were, and we’re eating more meat and fewer vegetables, more sugars and fewer fruits, than ever before. We are, despite our advances in technology and medicine, the most obese nation in the world. America is not universally unfit — each state has its set of challenges in fighting off obesity, and not all are being attacked by the epidemic equally. Kansas sits at a crossroads in the U.S., bordered by both the least obese state, Colorado, and two of the most obese, Missouri and Oklahoma. The state itself suffers from a 29.4 percent obesity rate, a stark contrast to Colorado’s seemingly fit 21 percent but no large leap from Missouri’s 30.5 percent.  These trends are just as striking on the local level. McPherson County is less overweight than the state average, but not by much. 28.9 percent of residents are considered overweight, meaning that of the county’s 29,180 inhabitants, 8,754 are obese. The health problems connected to obesity are as numerous as they are dangerous. Those who are seriously overweight are more susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, blood clots and a host of other threats that can lead to self-complicating health concerns and, ultimately, premature death. A large challenge in curbing America’s obesity epidemic is that the problem cannot simply be addressed with a pill. Instead, the biggest tool in fighting off obesity is preventing it from happening in the first place.  That’s why programs like those being implemented in McPherson’s Elementary Schools are so vital to the long-term health of our nation. Last Friday students at Roosevelt Elementary School spent time learning the importance of balancing their food intake with ample exercise and physical activity — a crucial lesson in a season filled with abundance. They learned about calories, where they come from, and how they help and harm the body. Then each class spent 15 minutes walking in an effort to instill the idea that by being conscious about burning away the excess they eat they can maintain a healthy body. This is a lesson that we should have all been taught in elementary school, but one that seems pushed to the side by other class work and activities. To see it communicated today is promising, particularly in a world in which we continue to focus on getting more rather than balancing what we already have. We need to make sure that our children aren’t just leaving these ideas at school. Parents need to reinforce the lessons taught in schools with action at home. They need to consciously think not of what they want for dinner, but what would best serve the nutritional needs of their children. They must  also encourage their kids to get outside and run around in their backyards rather than sit in front of TVs. Compared to fighting obesity as an adult, instilling healthy behaviors in children from the very start is a relatively easy task. Kids love to mimic and copy what they see in their teachers, parents and peers. When positive, active lifestyles are taught during that impressionable period, kids have a natural inclination to abide by those behaviors later in life. The lessons taught by Kid Link Teams throughout McPherson elementary schools promote a critical message in our nation of excess. One wonders whether, had these lessons had been taught in decades past, the older generations of Americans might not be a little more fit as well.   — The Sentinel?Editorial?Board