Childhood obesity is one of the most critical health issues facing Americans today and a new Field Poll of California voters shows Californians are ready for a change. Nearly half of all respondents said unhealthy eating habits or a lack of physical activity was the greatest health risk facing California kids—more so than illegal drug use and violence. And I agree.
Hello, I'm Dr. Wendel Brunner, Director of Public Health for Contra Costa Health Services. It's encouraging to see the results from this poll and know that they support some of the pioneering efforts currently underway in Contra Costa to fight obesity, and to reduce how much sugar our children are consuming from sweetened beverages.
Childhood obesity is a major problem in Contra Costa and the health consequences are absolutely real. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, are at a greater risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, and are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and osteoarthritis.
And it's getting worse. From 2005 to 2010, the number of school-age children who are overweight or obese in Contra Costa rose by 3.5 percentage points to an alarming rate of nearly 34 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if this goes on, one out of five kids today will grow up with type II diabetes.
And sugar-sweetened beverages are a huge part of the problem. The average child who drinks sugary beverages is consuming 150,000 empty calories a year from sweetened beverages alone.
Almost three out of four of the poll respondents said the community should be involved in any effort to reduce childhood obesity and nearly two-thirds supported a special fee on sugar-sweetened beverages to fight the epidemic of obesity in our communities.
Clearly, Californians are ready to support actions that make the healthy choice the easy choice. In addition to decreasing consumption of sugary beverages, building more parks and sidewalks, improving public safety and increasing access to healthy food options can help prevent childhood obesity.
Please take a moment to read the Field Poll and find out what your cities and communities can do to reverse the growing trend of childhood obesity. You can find links online at www.cchealth.org.