CHILDREN’S HEALTH: CDC Will Promote Walking to School
To "increase daily exercise for legions of American children who have become heavier and more sedentary," federal public health officials this spring are launching a new initiative to revive the tradition of walking to school. About 10% of children ages five to 15 walk to school today, compared to an estimated 50% or more in the 1960s, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. CDC experts believe the decline in walking and biking may have contributed to increasing numbers of overweight children; since 1970, the rate of overweight children ages 6-11 has doubled from 5.5% to 13.6%, putting them at "greater risk for future heart disease, diabetes and other health problems." Officials attribute the trend against walking to school to parents' safety concerns, sprawl that has "put schools at a distance" and parents' hectic work schedules. But even among children who live within a mile of school, less than 30% walk regularly. CDC health scientist Rich Killingsworth, who is involved in the agency's KidsWalk-To-School effort, said, "Since when did it become natural for us to chauffeur our children place to place, from the time they are born until the time they get their driver's license? I view this transportation crisis as a fundamental public health threat." The "key" to reversing the trend, according to officials, "will be changing attitudes." A new CDC manual will offer parents suggestions to overcome obstacles to walking, urging then to take turns accompanying small groups of neighborhood children to school and to identify potential safety hazards with local public officials. Dr. Bill Dietz, director of the CDC's division of nutrition and physical activity, said that the program "is about engaging parents and children in what should be a normal, everyday physical activity" (Uhlman, 3/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.