Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation
. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, in her first release to the nation, calls upon all Americans, from parents and teachers to government and community leaders, to join her in the fight against the nation's overweight and obesity epidemic - a trend that is associated with other epidemics of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. In her message to the nation, Dr. Benjamin states that researchers predict these conditions will afflict many of our children when they reach early adulthood, a track that could subsequently lead to a shorter lifespan than their parents.
The change toward a healthier and more fit nation begins with each individual assuming responsibility for his/her own health by making healthy choices. In The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation, Dr. Benjamin states "we must all work together to share resources, educate our citizens, and partner with business and government leaders to find creative solutions in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities from coast to coast. Together, we can become a nation committed to become healthy and fit."
The recommended actions delineated in The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation include:
Individual Healthy Choices and Healthy Home Environments
Creating Healthy Child Care Settings
- Change starts with the individual. Americans should strive to decrease consumption of sugary beverages such as sodas and juice with added sugars as well as high caloric foods that have added sugars and/or solid fats; increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and water; exhibit portion control; choose dairy products that are low- or non-fat; increase physical activity throughout the day; decrease time spent watching television; and, for mothers, to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.
- Parents and caregivers need to be positive role models of healthy lifestyle habits for their children.
Creating Healthy Schools
- Child care programs need to determine and devise a care plan that will incorporate expert recommendations on physical activity, television and computer time, proper nutrition, and healthy sleeping conditions which will promote the health of the children under their care.
Creating Healthy Work Sites
- Throughout the school day, there are multiple opportunities for students to be educated about the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle habits, such as participating in regular exercise and making healthier food choices; thus, schools play a pivotal role in preventing childhood obesity.
- Schools should provide fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or non-fat beverages in their cafeterias.
- Schools need to require student participation in physical education classes. Time spent in the classes should allow for the accumulation of 150 minutes per week of exercise for elementary school-aged children and 225 minutes per week of exercise for secondary school-aged children.
Mobilizing the Medical Community
- Employees spend a significant amount of time per week in the work environment. Employers should strive to implement corporate wellness programs which promote healthy lifestyle habits. Such programs should encourage healthy food choices and group physical activity classes.
- Employers should offer incentives to employees to participate in corporate wellness programs.
Improving Our Communities
- Health care professionals should make it a priority to teach their patients about the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle habits that will result in weight maintenance and a reduction in risk for chronic diseases.
- Communities need to incorporate the concept of the "built" environment, one which develops land use patterns that encourage active modes of transportation (e.g., walking and bicycling) and readily accessible recreational facilities as well as supermarkets.
- Safety needs to be improved to foster participation in active modes of transportation.
There are many things that each individual American can do to help our nation become a healthy and fit one. Challenge yourself to adopt at least one new healthy habit a day. This can be as simple as adding a piece of fruit at lunch or drinking a glass of low-fat milk instead of a milkshake.
To view the complete publication of The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation
, visit www.surgeongeneral.gov.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, January 2010.
Labels: built environment, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation, US Department of Health and Human Services