P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923
LET'S HELP TEXAS STUDENTS SHAPE UP FOR GOOD HEALTH
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Too big if you ask Men's Fitness magazine, which continues to rank the Lone Star State (Houston, 1; Dallas, 6; San Antonio, 10; Fort Worth, 14) high on its infamous list of America's "fattest cities."
The survey is based on information about how many vegetables we buy, consumption of alcohol, fast food business, average commuting time, purchases of gym memberships, air quality and other indicators. Some say the ranking is unfair. But why get mad? Instead, let's focus on ways to get healthier.
This session I filed Senate Bill 42 to promote health and nutrition among the section of our population who most desperately need it -- our youth. Building upon my 2001 law requiring 30 minutes of daily exercise in our public elementary schools, this legislation offers the following new ways to improve student health:
- Expand daily PE to include Texas middle schools and junior highs.
- Evaluate compliance with nutrition guidelines for certain food served in school cafeterias or available in vending machines.
- Restore the School Health Advisory Committee.
- Include health education in the TAKS test.
- Direct the Education Commissioner to publish a report on student health policies in school districts throughout Texas.
In my days as a student, we had PE every day. When we returned home from school, our parents would send us outside to play until dinner. During my time as a sixth-grade teacher, PE was always an important part of the school day.
Unfortunately, physical education has been de-emphasized over the years. Many children are sitting at their desks all day, eating unhealthy food out of the vending machines in between classes, and sitting in front of their computers all night.
The results have been devastating. According to the Department of State Health Services, more than a third of our state's school-age children are overweight or obese, exceeding the national average of 10 to 15 percent. Overweight and obesity-associated costs for Texas adults totaled $10.5 billion during 2001, according to a report issued by the Joint Interim Committee on Nutrition and Health in Public Schools.
These numbers matter more to me than how Texas ranks on a magazine's fit-or-fat list. There is a significant financial toll on taxpayers associated with poor individual health habits. The human toll is even greater.
Let's make sure that as we teach our students the fundamentals, we do not forget to teach the most valuable lesson of all. Take care of your body. You only get one.
SENATOR JANE NELSON, R-LEWISVILLE, represents Senate District 12 including parts of Denton and Tarrant Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.