Chicagoans Urged To Find Solutions To City's Childhood Obesity Crisis

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Childhood Obesity Crisis

Twenty-three percent of Chicago city's kindergartners are obese bringing urgency to nationally recognized Shaping America's Youth Town Meeting in Chicago.

Chicago residents are invited to come together on May 19 to discuss solutions to the alarming issue of childhood obesity at the Shaping America's Youth (SAY) Town Meeting at the Downtown Chicago Marriott. The issue is especially alarming for Illinois since approximately 23 percent of the state's kindergartners -- twice the national average -- are overweight and more than 33 percent of Chicago high school students are overweight or obese.

Past SAY Town Meetings, which offer a very different grassroots yet high-tech process for finding solutions to the epidemic of childhood overweight, have attracted up to 1,000 interested citizens. According to William Dietz, MD, PhD and Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity these town meetings offer "the opportunity for concerned citizens to share their views about how we can work together to solve this problem."

Government statistics show that Chicago's youth are especially at risk and vulnerable to the potential debilitating diseases and lifestyles that come from a lifetime of obesity:

-- 25 percent of 2-to-5 year olds in Illinois are obese, double the national average (1);

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-- 75 percent of Chicago high school students do not meet recommended levels of activity (2);

-- 78 percent of Chicago high school students do not eat the recommended level of fruits and vegetables (2);

-- $272 per person was spent on obesity-related medical costs by Illinois in 2003 (3); and

-- 48 percent of Chicago high school students reported watching a minimum of three hours of television each day (2).

"America's childhood obesity rate is something all of us should be concerned about," said Chicago Department of Public Health's Commissioner Terry Mason, M.D., F.A.C.S. "We encourage all Chicagoans to attend this event."

Chicago is the fourth city to host this nationally recognized event that brings together interested citizens from all demographic and socioeconomic groups. The high-tech, grass roots event engages all participants to brainstorm solutions with ideas immediately presented back to the group and recorded for future evaluation in a petition that will eventually be sent to the White House to address this issue. Locally, participants will also be able to provide input on a preliminary plan for addressing Chicago's childhood obesity crisis.

"As with SAY's National Registry of Programs, these Town Meetings are building a credible voice that will balance the wisdom of crowds against the traditional opinion of experts in determining how our nation might best respond to this critical health challenge our children face" said David McCarron, MD, FACP, SAY's Executive Director.

Shaping America's Youth (SAY) is a first-of-its-kind, public/private initiative designed to combine the efforts of numerous organizations and programs to create a "grassroots" plan for healthier nutrition and activity for children. SAY and its parent organization Shaping America's Health were chartered by the American Diabetes Association to address the prevention and management of America's weight crisis.

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