Get healthy, because time is running out.
Get healthy, because time is running out. Those were the impassioned words of McPherson Mayor Tom Brown Tuesday morning during a presentation at the city commission meeting. Brown informed his fellow commissioners and the crowd at the McPherson City Building that today’s children are the first generation ever to be predicted to die as many as five years younger than their parents. “There are two reasons for that, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition,” Brown said. “The poor nutrition is not a problem with food not being available. There are all kinds of healthy foods available, but we’re just not eating it, and we’re all obese.” A study released Sept. 18 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health backs up Brown’s proclamation. The study stated that 13 states, including Kansas, could have an adult obesity rate greater than 60 percent by 2030. Currently, Kansas is the 13th-most obese state in the country with a 29.6 percent rate. The September study projects the state to have a 62.1 percent adult obesity rate in 2030. “We had some recent deaths of people in their 30s and 40s that are living 20 years, 30 years less than their parents,” Brown said. “This is reaching epidemic proportions.” The issue isn’t limited to adults, either. A 2009 Centers for Disease control study showed 13.1 percent of Kansas high school students were overweight and 12.4 percent were obese. A 2010 study of Kansas children aged 2 to 5 years old showed 15.7 percent were overweight and 13 percent were obese. Brown pointed to more time spent in front of a computer and a lack of so-called ‘free-range playtime’ as big factors in the rising obesity rates among children. “What do you know that your kids have done that doesn’t involve a coach, officials and a set time and place to do it?” Brown asked. “It seems, if we don’t have some sort of scheduled activity, they don’t just have free play. “Free play develops relationships and future leaders. It does all these things that, with structured activities, it just doesn’t happen as much.” Another big issue stemming from the growing obesity epidemic is the growing cost of health care associated with obesity-related diseases. The study from the TFAH/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts medical costs rising to $66 billion per year in the United States alone in 2030. The loss of economic productivity in 2030 could range between $390 billion and $580 billion. “It will bury us,” Brown said. “It will bury us as a community, it will bury us as a state and it will bury us as a nation.” To combat the growing obesity epidemic, Brown said the city is in the process of applying for a Healthy Communities Initiative grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The grant provides a one-time payout of $25,000 to each of eight Kansas communities dedicated to developing a strategic community plan to promote healthy living. However, Brown said he thinks the community should proceed with a plan regardless of whether the city receives the grant or not. “If you care about your kids, if you care about your grandkids, you need to take this very seriously,” Brown said. “We don’t have any time left. It’s an important thing. It’s a life-and-death thing.”