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What chubby kids might face

March 30, 2006

The fat is out of the fire, so to speak, for at least one more school year.

After opposition to a plan to weigh schoolchildren periodically as part of an effort to reduce - or keep track of - childhood obesity - Maryland state lawmakers instead opted for another year of study.

Translation: It's an election year, so why upset anyone?

We agree that this is one more burden that would be laid on the school system. But if we were talking about an epidemic of lead poisoning as opposed to obesity, lawmakers would be rushing to co-sponsor this bill.

Is childhood obesity really a problem? Yes, and new research says it's greater in many rural areas than in big cities.

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Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that the Center for Rural Health in Pennsylvania released a study comparing the body-mass index of 25,000 seventh graders from rural and urban areas.

In the big cities, 16 percent of those students were considered obese. In the rural areas, the figure was 20 percent. Worse, between 1999 and 2001 when the study was done, rural schools experienced a 5 percent jump in the number of obese students - twice the increase in city schools.

Studies done in other states' rural areas are finding much the same thing. In West Virginia, for example, 25 percent of all fifth graders are obese.

Not your problem, you say, if your neighbor's child is overweight?

Think again. Dr. Darrell Ellsworth, director of cardiovascular disease research at Pennsylvania's Windber Research Institute, told AP that if something doesn't change, a wave of diabetes and and heart disease may strike today's children.

When there's an epidemic, everybody pays for it, even those with healthy lifestyles. Tell Maryland lawmakers to think about trying to stop this one as soon as possible.

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