- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Today's youths are more responsible and more educated than those of past generations but need to focus on leading healthy lifestyles, said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

Eating nutritious foods and exercising would help reverse the increase in cases of Type II diabetes, a disease normally associated with overweight adults that now is affecting children, Mr. Thompson said at the National Youth Summit.

"We can prevent 60 percent [of the cases] by exercising," he said.

Although the number of overweight youths is on the rise, illegal drug and smoking activity is decreasing.

Illegal drug use and smoking reported by American students were lower in 2001 than in 1997, Mr. Thompson said, citing a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Five years ago, a third of students reported smoking," Mr. Thompson said. "But that's now down to 23 percent."

Mr. Thompson promoted sexual abstinence as the only way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. He called on youths in attendance to "be ambassadors" to their peers and discourage unhealthy behavior.

"I'm very optimistic about America's youth," Mr. Thompson said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman joined Mr. Thompson yesterday at the event, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with seven other U.S. departments.

Mr. Ashcroft echoed Mr. Thompson's calls for healthy living and added that interpersonal relationships and public service are other factors in developing good leaders.

Mentoring and education are two ways to ensure children lead successful lives, Mr. Ashcroft said, adding that parents should realize that "in everything we do, we teach."

"We can teach by saying and teach by reading, but we will teach the best by doing," he said.

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