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Childhood Obesity Grows in Hartford
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Hartford was the latest stop on a national tour of cities by Acting U-S Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven Galson. As WNPR's Marie Kuhn reports, the Surgeon General visited a community center to see how the Capital City is targeting childhood obesity.

The number of overweight and obese children  in the U.S. has tripled since the 1980s. To date, more than 12 and a half million children and adolescents are overweight. Acting Surgeon General Galson calls it an "epidemic."

As part of his tour,  Galson spoke to health advocates at a roundtable discussion at the North End Senior Center in Hartford. He says  preventing childhood obesity is simple.

"Our young people need to get and stay more active than they are today, in 2008. They need to eat nutritiously, and they need to understand what it means, and how they can eat nutritiously."

A recent study by the Hartford Department of Health and Human Services shows that obesity is the leading cause of negative health outcomes for the city's youth.

The study shows that 50 percent of the city's 11-year-olds, and 30 percent of 2-year olds,  are either "at risk," "obese," or "extremely obese."

Roundtable participant Lee Pach-ter is a professor of pediatrics and anthropology at the University of Connecticut, and director of the Hartford Childhood obesity coalition.

Pacther gave what he called a "bleak" social and economic portrait of Hartford's children that contributes to weight problems.

"Forty-one percent of Hartford's children live below the poverty line, 54 percent live in single-parent family household, one in three mothers from Hartford giving birth in 2001 had less than a high school diploma, and 65 percent of Hartford's children are enrolled in HUSKY Aid, the medicaid portion of our health insurance."

Despite these statistics, the Acting Surgeon General recognized the city for its Healthy Hartford campaign, an initiative started by Mayor Eddie Perez to assist youngsters in making positive health choices.