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Editorial: Healthy messages can't be overstated

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

More than one in three Americans (35%) are said to be obese -- today's euphemism for fat. Fifty years ago that percentage was closer to one in eight (13%). Besides being the most powerful nation in the world, current statistics show that the United States' population is also the fattest.

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Being fat means you're more apt to have a heart attack, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers -- among the leading cause of preventable death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, other fat-related repercussions include high blood pressure, liver and gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems.

One recent study projected that by later this decade, Americans will spend $344 billion annually in medical expenses triggered by obesity -- slurping up about 21% of all health-care spending. Obesity now drains more health-care services than smoking.

Most River Falls Journal readers likely read last week's story on our school district's effort to implement new federal guidelines on calorie intake and healthy meal servings for breakfast and lunch.

Not all students, especially the older, athletic ones, are pleased. Some said the smaller servings left them hungry, even fatigued, later in the school day or during sport activities.

Such feedback is part of a necessary dialog. Menu adjustments may be needed. Those eating school meals deserve a say in how it affects them. Still, the bottom line is that the guidelines and restrictions are part of an ongoing educational process about why we must eat healthier.

Another story Journal readers probably saw last week was coverage of the Chamber of Commerce's Business Breakfast spotlighting a new program called Health Promotion and Prevention Partnership. The program, funded by a $500,000 grant, is being unveiled in River Falls and a dozen other area communities.

Through various ways, including wellness plans, HP3 aims to raise awareness about fitness (obesity), diet and healthy behaviors. It involves partnering with schools, municipalities and businesses.

It would be easy to ridicule school menu guidelines and community wellness projects as mere window dressing. There may even be some truth to that, since taken by themselves these initiatives won't solve the problem. Obviously they can't reverse a national health crisis that's decades in the making.

What they can do, however, is keep the message out front, before our eyes. We need reminding that there are personal habits to change, and foods to choose and avoid if we and are children are to lead more satisfying, healthier lives.

Online Poll: Food for thought

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: What is your opinion of the school-meal federal guidelines that count calories and have requirements for grains, meats, fruits, vegetables and milk?

Early results: Hate it, 61.5%; Love it, 30.8%; Neutral, 7.7%.

Add your input by going to www.riverfallsjournal.com.

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