October 05, 2004

Wyden Combats Childhood Obesity Epidemic in Oregon, Nationwide

At hearing discusses obesity and hunger facing state's low-income children; Calls for passage of bipartisan bill to curb growing problem

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on his bipartisan legislation to combat childhood obesity. In today's hearing, Wyden talked at length about the serious epidemic of obesity among children in Oregon and throughout the nation, and urged that Congress take the lead in curbing the epidemic by passing the "Childhood Obesity Reduction Act." The legislation, which Wyden introduced earlier this year with U.S. Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), would give parents and teachers a one-stop shop to fight obesity by launching a comprehensive website to learn about different successful exercise and nutrition programs in schools across the country. The legislation would also eventually provide funding to reward some of the most successful of these programs, and support others in areas where childhood obesity is most threatening. "Across this country, on couches in front of televisions and video game consoles, a silent killer called obesity is stalking America's youngsters in epidemic numbers," said Wyden. "Obesity among children is up. But the dollars being spent now on their obesity-related diseases in childhood are just a drop in the bucket compared to what we're going to have to spend. Many obesity-related diseases are chronic and lifelong." In today's hearing, Wyden sought answers from health and fitness experts testifying before the panel about the related problems of hunger and obesity. Wyden first began his work on anti-obesity legislation because of the seriousness of these twin problems facing many of Oregon's younger and lower-income children. Often, more nutritious foods are too expensive for lower-income families, while less expensive foods tend to be higher in fat and sugar with less nutritional value. "Oregon is in effect, the second hungriest state in the nation and we also have this growing problem of obesity," stated Wyden today. "In our state, the two are clearly linked." The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least 31 percent of low-income children between two and five years of age in Oregon are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 22 percent of the adults in Oregon are obese and 60 percent are overweight. The Centers for Disease Control found the obesity rate among Oregon adults increased by 86 percent from 1990 to 2002. Being significantly overweight or obese increases a child's risk for diabetes, which kills three times as many people in Oregon today as it did 15 years ago.