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Help kids step toward health

Without question, parents have the responsibility of being a child's first teacher. The daily interaction between parent and child during the early years of childhood sets the foundation for many facets of a child's life.

More often than not, the behaviors displayed by children are learned and reinforced through their parents' words and actions.

Unfortunately, some parents underestimate the effect they have on the development of a child's values and attitudes. The "teachable moments" of a child's youth are immensely valuable and precious in shaping a better quality of life.

The current physical decline of America's children and adolescents demands parental awareness and demonstrates a dire need for action.

Parents, the physical well-being of a high percentage of America's school-age children needs improvement urgently.

Studies on childhood and adolescent obesity and its associated illnesses have brought the problem to the national forefront. Adult diabetic conditions are being discovered in overweight children at an alarming, epidemic rate all across the country. Additionally, the American Cancer Society has informed the public about the relationship between being overweight and the possible development of several cancers.

Simply stated, the American population as a whole, with the significant increase of obese children, is headed toward physically complicated and medically unwanted conditions in the immediate future.

As an elementary physical education teacher, I firmly believe we are courting physical disaster unless parents become mindful of the situation and react.

I also believe this is not an absolute picture of doom. These high-risk conditions among our children were created and, thus, can be reversed. The first step toward weight reduction and improved fitness is recognition of the problem and a genuine desire to achieve a healthy level of fitness.

Parental knowledge, guidance and support are essential, along with the understanding that the process will be gradual.

Every journey, regardless of the distance, begins with just one step. When parents and children work together, it is almost certain that things will get better when a step is taken in the right direction.

Therefore, I ask interested and caring parents to take that first step up to the plate for the sake of your child's health.

Mike McGinnis is a physical education teacher at Lake St. George Elementary School in Palm Harbor.