Weighing in on childhood obesity

July 9, 2012 Editorial Staff
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On Saturday, June 24, Assemblymember Rhoda Jacobs awakened early to march through Flatbush with healthcare workers, fitness instructors, church leaders and local students in a walk-a-thon to raise awareness about childhood obesity. Jacobs also spoke to the crowd about the importance of healthy living.

“We see too many young people with high cholesterol and diabetes before their time,” Jacobs said.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth obesity has increased more than threefold in the past 30 years. Further, a study of five to 17-year-olds revealed that “70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

“It is a really great idea to engage the community in fighting childhood obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle before our youth develop irreversible health complications,” Jacobs stressed as she commended Nicole Francois, the event’s organizer and founder of Youth Fighting Obesity (YFO).

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Francois, a family care center manager at Brookdale Hospital, was also joined by her colleagues at Brookdale, Dr. Marilyn Arca, a pediatrician; and Steve Phillips, a hospital administrator. Pastor Derrick Allen of the Church of God in Christ stopped by to show his support.

According to Francois, the problem of childhood obesity is especially pertinent to the local community. “Within Brooklyn alone, [one] can find dozens of fast food restaurants within a five mile radius,” Francois stated in a phone interview.

Francois emphasized that while the consumption of fast food is acceptable in moderation, many youth are unaware of the negative effects it can have on their bodies if they consume fast food in excess amounts. According to Francois, obese youth are at risk of developing diseases that will cut their lives short by 10-15 years.

Francois noted that Saturday’s walk-a-thon is merely the start of an ongoing effort to combat youth obesity. Through YFO, she hopes to raise scholarship money for youth athletes, coordinate annual marathons/walk-a-thons, and ultimately raise funds to open a fully functioning fitness center within a healthcare institution.

This, Francois said, is related to YFO’s goal of uniting—for the purpose of decreasing the population of obese youth— healthcare workers with trainers and others in the field of physical fitness.

Assemblywoman Jacobs underscored that, as a legislator, she has pioneered key legislation throughout her career in support of youth and preventive healthcare. For example, Jacobs authored the law which greatly expanded eligibility for the WIC food programs, enabling over 30,000 more women, infants and children to participate in them.

“From a legislative standpoint, I continue to prioritize issues of this nature, and I am proud to be a strong voice advocating for the health of Brooklyn’s youth,” said Jacobs. “As the politics of healthcare evolve, and hospitals in Brooklyn are at risk of closure because of budget issues, there is no better time to wage this war.

“But in order to win,” Jacobs added, “it is vital that schools, religious institutions, community leaders, and of course non-profits like YFO continue to raise their voices and share their visions with local legislators.”

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