Push your Scouts away from the table … and the remote control.
AS I TRAVEL TO COUNCILS across the country, I often speak about the health of our young people and the challenges of the growing problem of youth obesity.
This is the first in a series of regular columns in which Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca discusses issues critical to Scouting and the welfare of the young people we serve.
Granted, we are now living in a digital age. Video games, cell phones, computer keyboards, and iPods are driving our young people indoors or into more sedentary activities. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office reports that today, 12.5 million children are overweight in the United States—more than 17 percent.
It is clearly our responsibility to continue to aggressively build and promote programs that contribute to healthier living for our Scouts. In addition, we need to be partners in making all children healthy, which we can accomplish through stepped-up recruiting efforts. I found very alarming a statement from former U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona in his testimony before Congress on childhood health and obesity:
“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
During 2009, Acting Surgeon General Steven K. Galson has been helping to raise awareness through his nationwide tour to promote “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” (www.surgeongeneral.gov/obesityprevention), an obesity prevention initiative recognizing communities that use creative approaches to encourage kids to eat right and exercise.
Scouting can also help reverse unhealthy trends by making sure “no child is left inside.” On a weekend outing, a Scout may spend 36 to 48 hours in nature, more than balancing any time spent in front of a screen. This same outing will help keep a Scout active and physically fit, thereby addressing obesity rates. Most important, Scouts are in an environment where patrol members set the structure with ample time to explore the wonders of nature in an unhurried setting.
The approach of our 100th anniversary celebration reminds us of our commitment to encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors and strive to be as “physically strong” as possible to lead healthy, productive lives. Their future is Scouting’s future. It’s up to us to set the example along the Scouting trail and help reduce the obesity rate of our future generation.
Robert J. Mazzuca
Chief Scout Executive