U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in Nashville today that childhood obesity has become a national epidemic and that will require efforts by all levels of society – including individuals and their families, schools, the government, and the private sector – to reverse this problem.
“Today's children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents because of rising rates of child obesity. Tennessee has the 4th highest childhood obesity rate in the country, but this isn’t just a problem for Tennessee alone – this is a national epidemic,” said Alexander, during a field hearing in Nashville of the Subcommittee on Children and Families of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). “Over the last 40 years, obesity rates quadrupled for children ages 6-11 years, and tripled for adolescents ages 12-19 years. In addition to the numerous adverse health effects associated with childhood obesity, some reports indicate that childhood obesity costs an estimated $14 billion annually in direct health expenses.”
Alexander, a senior member of the HELP Committee and ranking Republican on its Subcommittee on Children and Families, was joined at the hearing by Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Susan Cooper, Dr. Shari Barkin of the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Dr. Susanna Tropez-Sims of Meharry Medical College, and David Griffin from Season 4 of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” The witnesses testified about the scope of the child obesity problem and discussed ways to address it. Mr. Griffin, a native of Cedar Hill, Tenn., also shared his life-changing experience of being a contestant of “The Biggest Loser.” Despite being the eighth contestant cut from the show, Griffin eventually lost 180 pounds.
Today’s hearing builds on two previous hearings held in Washington by the Children and Families Subcommittee to examine the dangerous consequences of childhood obesity and possible solutions to address this growing problem.
“Our response as a nation to preventing or addressing this childhood obesity epidemic as a country has been woefully inadequate,” Alexander continued. “Efforts to reverse this problem will require efforts across society, individuals and their families, schools, the government, and the private sector as well.”