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Rates of childhood obesity has soared in the past thirty years. In North America they have tripled. One in four Canadian children is now estimated to be overweight and one in ten is clinically obese.

Many common maladies, cancer, heart disease, diabetes can be traced to diet and lifestyle. Type Two Diabetes in school children was once very rare but now is a very serious problem. Dr Richard Lubell ,a well known London Pediatrician, taught me that people have Volkswagen Pancreas and Cadillac bodies. He believes that there is a genetic disposition to being overweight. Parents are role models to their children. Obesity in one’s late twenties can cut thirteen years off your life.

I checked out the vast array of fatty, fast, food substitutes available to our youth. The marketing companies target our children with glitzy TV ads emphasizing the superlatives:"Big Gulp, Big Mac Combo, Quarter Pounder, Finger Licking Good, Happy Meals" promotions.

The cost of the food pales in comparison to the advertizing media hype. Get the children hooked at a young age and hopefully they will stay with the good tasting high calorie/sodium foods throughout their lives is the plan. There is little advertizing for wholesome foods: fish, skim milk, whole grain breads and cereals.
I am happy to hear that the Ontario government has decided to ban the sale of candy, french fries and pop from the school cafeterias.

Darlene Charuk who is the Learning Coordinator-Health and Physical Education e mailed me the physical requirements for Thames Valley students. Elementary schools are asked to consider scheduling 30 minutes a day to help our children stay fit.

Sadly, the Ontario Ministry of Education has very few requirements for physical fitness awareness for our high school students. Where you aware that: "In order to receive an Ontario Secondary Diploma students need to only successfully complete one Health & Physical Education credit". The requirements can be achieved with a grade nine student spending seventy minutes a day of physical and health education for one semester (110-120 hours).

Phys Ed is not mandatory in Grade 10, 11 and 12. Our students can choose to be involved with extra curricular sports but when I checked the school team rosters it seems that the majority of students are not involved.

It is time for Provincial and Federal governments to involve themselves in pro active social services. We should consider taxing junk food as we do cigarettes and alcohol.

Look at the poor health of our children as a bell weather (canaries in the mine) of the cost to Londoners in the future.

How about realizing the need for thirty minutes of physical fitness activities daily for all high school students and staff members. If the students would spend the same amount of time on physical pursuits that they spend on texting Londoners would be a whole lot healthier.

The problem regarding obesity within our population the health experts cry is of epidemic proportions. The stats show that 37% of Canadians are overweight and are in need of help.

There is a direct cost of poor health. I called Deb Matthews who is the Minister in charge of Health Care in Ontario for some information to share with you. "The projections for 2011/12 for the cost of health care in Ontario is a daunting $47.1 billion with 46% of our budget going into health care."

If you are not well and decide that a trip to the London Health Centre Emergency Room is necessary it costs the tax payers $244.00. If you are admitted to the University Hospital the price of one day for Acute Care zooms to $966.00.

Perhaps the hospitals should send along statements to your home after you are discharged of the true cost of your care marked PAID IN FULL, by the tax payers of Ontario.
The Ministry of Health should be proactive and provide tax exemptions for families who make the effort to stay healthy by enrolling in the YMCA, Boys and Girls club or their favourite gym.

Fat, sedentary London youth will likely suffer more illness in their lives than their parents. We need to provide incentives for Londoners to stay healthy. With a little knowledge and self discipline our young people can be healthy. Checking the weigh scale and making wise life style decisions for your family is the challenge for all Londoners.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com