The Center for Disease Control recently reported that Pennsylvania was one of only three states (out of 40 studied) in the nation to have rising rates of childhood obesity among low-income preschoolers. Physical inactivity paired with poor nutrition among youths has obvious public health concerns, as overweight children are five times more likely to become overweight adults.
Less obvious, but equally important, are the national security consequences of this ongoing obesity epidemic.
Obesity is now the leading medical reason why young Americans cannot join the military — barring one out of four 17- to 24-year-olds from enlisting. Physical inactivity among youths is on the rise. Today, only one-third as many children and youths are walking or biking to school as compared to a generation ago.
Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Legislature has just passed a measure that will help increase physical activity and fight childhood obesity.
The comprehensive transportation funding solution included a first-ever state investment in making our roads and communities safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Sen. Don White and Rep. Dave Reed, both R-Indiana, as well as other area legislators who supported the measure should be commended.
Built environments that afford safe and convenient walking and biking opportunities between schools, parks, residential neighborhoods and commercial corridors encourage individuals to be more physically active as part of their daily routines.
Data from the American Heart Association show that for every $1 spent on building safe bike/pedestrian transportation routes, $3 in reduced health care costs can result.
This investment in “active transportation” will provide a cost-effective opportunity to improve public health and ensure future national security.
Lt. Gen. Dennis L. Benchoff
U.S. Army (Retired)
• EDITOR’S NOTE: Gen. Benchoff is a former chief of staff for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and is on the executive advisory council for Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization of senior retired military leaders calling for smart investments in America’s children.