According to one recent ABC News poll, among a wealth of reports, obesity rates have increased in 31 states nationwide in the past year, declining in none.
“The statistics are overwhelming and frightening,” said Celeste Carmichael, State Specialist in the 4-H Development Office.
The 4-H Club, originally an agricultural group, now sponsors a variety of humanitarian endeavors ranging from camps to special events to after-school programs and exhibits.
According to Michelle Martin, advisor to the 4-H Club, the group has grown and changed according to issues of the day, selecting the most important and taking action.
The national obesity endemic has received extensive media coverage, and the recent reports again point to childhood obesity as a key issue.
4-H has addressed this issue by implementing a “Choose Health” initiative, with joint efforts and enthusiasm from President David Skorton and Barbara Schirmer, New York State 4-H youth development program leader. “Choose Health” is a program aimed at reducing childhood obesity as well as educating children around New York about healthier lifestyles.
Skorton “certainly is supportive of anything we can do to meet the needs of the people out there — especially the young people,” said Carmichael. “Our motto is 4-H connects kids to Cornell.”
Cornell University is a land grant University of New York state and sponsors a youth branch of the 4-H Club.
At the State Fair last week, 4-H members were given pedometers to measure their steps and competed in groups to see which could walk furthest while at the event. Group members ran various activities, promoting exciting ways to improve health and nutrition.
“That’s what Cornell is trying to do,” said Martin, “make fitness and health a fun activity.”
In addition, President Skorton not only spoke out about the cause, but partook in a round of Dance Dance Revolution. Skorton was able to catch not only the attention of the youthful audience but of local students and adults as well.
As a cardiologist himself, Skorton knows his fair share about heart health and good habits.
“He sees the consequence of not eating healthy, not maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” said Cornell Nutrition Professor David Levitsky.
According to Levitsky, with larger portion sizes, little concern for nutrition, and increasing neglect to exercise, it is no surprise that the trend of obesity has become such an epidemic.
“It’s a culture of habit,” agreed Cornell Food Science Professor Robert Gravani. “If you start young and build good dietary habits and good exercise habits, it will stay with you all your life.”
Not coincidentally, “Any Interest, Any Project” is the slogan that Carmichael so aptly coined for the enthusiastic team. The Choose Health website features healthy living tips, a blog, polls, articles and updates. It is connected with Cornell, featuring a link to the University’s Food and Brand Lab as well. Check out the site for further information at http://4hchoosehealth.blogspot.com/.