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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

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For Immediate Release: March 4, 2008

Sen. Ron Justice
Sen. Ron Justice

Measure Addressing Childhood Obesity in State Approved by Senate

Childhood obesity rates are climbing nationwide and State Sen. Ron Justice wants to change that trend in Oklahoma. On Monday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1612, which creates the Quality Afterschool Opportunities Act to Reduce Childhood Obesity and Improve Academic Performance, to combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity through community programs outside the classroom.

“Childhood obesity poses a major risk to the health and future of our state’s children,” said Justice, R-Chickasha. “It’s important that we help these children at a young age because the older they get the more likely they are to be overweight or obese adults and then they’ll be faced with additional health and emotional problems.”

The State Department of Health has found that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. In 2006, Oklahoma ranked sixth in the nation for obesity with more than one out of every four adults being obese, a figure which has more than doubled since 1990. In 2005, one in seven Oklahoma high school students were found to be overweight while more than one-sixth of the state’s children ages 10 to 17 were found to be overweight in 2003.

“Oklahoma’s statistics are alarming,” said Justice. “Obese children run the risk of developing heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers and arthritis. And besides the health risks, overweight youth also face social discrimination stemming from low self-esteem and depression. This is no life for a child and we must all work together to prevent these risks and ensure the health of all of our children.”

The program would direct the Department of Health to award grants to comprehensive, community-based afterschool programs that include evidence-based obesity reduction components. Various community partners would be in involved in the program including parents, schools, child care providers, community- and faith-based organizations, health care professionals, civic leaders and others.

“Not all families can afford a gym membership or to take their child to a nutritionist. This program is about pooling the community’s resources and talents to help these families be healthier,” said Justice. “These programs would provide children with a curriculum proven to prevent and reduce obesity through increased physical activity and the promotion of healthy eating and nutrition habits.”

The measure will now move to the House of Representatives for committee consideration.

For more information contact:
Senator Justice's Office:  (405) 521-5537

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