- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Read the news pages of this and other papers or peek in on the Web, and the Democrats are falling all over themselves on the issue of “affordable” health care. But here’s the truth none of them is telling you: If we keep looking for Big Brother and Big Mama to solve our growing health problems, we won’t need any care at all. Somewhere between living “The Life of Riley” and chuckling at family foibles with “The Cosby Show” we Baby Boomers lost our way.

Call it in loco parentis.

Public schools now tell our children what to eat and when to eat it. Public schools spend oodles of dollars on athletic facilities, equipment and transportation, while PE and traditional gym classes get short shrift. We relinquished parental responsibility and our moral compasses and replaced health education with sex education.

Perhaps we were following the leader, since it was our parents who let the courts yank pledging allegiances to our flag out of schools. We even turned our backs on the almighty by silencing prayer.

What’s left in place is our own undoing.

We fell head-over-heels for remote controls, video games and computer games. So much for nimble fingers.

We should have learned when the term “couch potato” became an official part of America’s lexicon.

So here we now sit, breeders of complacency instead of competition — passive participants in our own lives.

Fat and unhealthy as we want to be.

First, a couple of scary — very scary — facts, in case you don’t want to take my word for it.

Fact No. 1: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 29 percent of girls and 37 percent of boys attended “physical education classes five days in an average week when they were in school.”

That’s a far, far cry from the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the rigors of physical education were as standard as the rigors of academics. We were far smarter and far healthier.

Which brings me to Fact No. 2: The Institute of Medicine says there are a half-dozen reasons why childhood obesity is on the rise, and one of them is unhealthy eating habits, of course. As for physical activity, the institute puts things in clear context: “competition for leisure time that was once spent playing outdoors [has been replaced] with sedentary screen time including watching television or playing computer and video games.”

In other words, we shifted gears but not our rumps.

Diabetes. Hypertension. Menstrual abnormalities. Sleep apnea. Depression. Teasing. Bullying. Missed employment opportunities. Need I say more?

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson and John Edwards can’t stop talking about “affordable” health care. They pound the issue every time they stand before a podium. I want them to take 10, look Americans dead in the camera and speak the words liberals can’t seem to muster the moral fortitude to speak: “My fellow Americans, you need to take charge of your children. It’s called personal responsibility.”

There are a few things that president of ours could do too. He can tell the President’s Council on Physical Fitness — remember them? — to get busy and push for an urgent restoration of phys ed. Right now. Get busy.

And I mean good old-fashioned gym class, where students worked up such a sweat — playing tennis, running the track or jumping rope, etc. — until they had to take a shower afterward.

We need to get moving, America, in case you still haven’t heard the news.

Not enough was made of some disturbing news that was released earlier this month. We already know American adults are fat, obese, overweight — call it what you want, and we know all those chronic illnesses I mentioned earlier (and the many I didn’t) make the costs of health care less and less affordable every year. But make our children suffer too?

The news came by way of the report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America” by the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health. Two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight. We spend more than $35 billion a year on weight-loss products. The fattest state in the union: Mississippi. The fattest children in the country: D.C.’s.

The government can make us fat cats, but it can’t slim us down.

We’re becoming a nation of wimps — fat wimps at that. Dodgeball is a violent sport? Schools and recreation centers are banning tag from playgrounds because it’s a game for bullies? Jumping rope during recess is a no-no because the rope can be used as a weapon?

We blame our larded derrieres on saturated fats and greasy burgers, and Chipotle bowls and Isaly’s ice cream. We blackmail the foodmakers and food packaging industries into putting nutrition labels on the food we shovel in. But guess what? We read the labels but keep shoveling it in.

Obesity eats up $117 billion a year in preventable health-care dollars. We’re paying the price. “Affordable” health care? Fat chance.

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