Fighting Back Against Childhood Obesity


You’ve heard the statistics more than once: Indiana is one of the unhealthiest states in the country. In the 2013 report “F as in FAT,” our state was ranked the eighth most obese state in the nation.

Through the Wellness Council of Indiana and our own Chamber-driven efforts to get Indiana into better shape (not only economically, but also through health and wellness efforts), we talk a lot about workplace wellness and the opportunity that employers have through encouraging healthy behaviors at work.

But, we have a bigger problem than that, and it starts much earlier than working age. Childhood obesity is an epidemic not only in Indiana, but around the world. The Wall Street Journal just reported that bariatric surgery is increasingly being used as a solution to curb life-threatening obesity in children, and even toddlers, in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Locally, a recent article in The Indianapolis Star told the story about a 14-year-old freshman named Eric, who attends Franklin Community High School. The 510-pound boy was too large for desks and chairs at the school and was increasingly withdrawn from his classmates, many of whom teased the boy for his girth.

But one teacher pulled him aside and asked what was going on. It turned out the child had lost his father and then broken his leg, leading to surgeries and sedentary living – two crushing factors that contributed to his weight gain.

The teacher reached out to an upperclassman to begin working with the boy; his classmates and other staff members also became involved and began influencing a healthy lifestyle of walking and exercise and good nutrition.

The Star reports that the story has gained national attention, and an H.H. Gregg executive is donating a treadmill and exercise equipment to the school. Even Subway spokesman Jared Fogle (famous for dropping a serious amount of weight through eating healthy Subway sandwiches and walking) has contacted the teachers involved to speak to classes at the school.  A local hospital has offered to teach Eric’s family about healthy nutrition and cooking.

While this is just one story out of many relating to childhood obesity, it is an important example of how positive, lasting change can occur – through education and support from parents, peers,  schools, communities and even businesses.

By making this everyone’s responsibility and encouraging our youngest citizens to become healthy adults, we have a real opportunity to curb this growing problem.

What can you do to help support this change?

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