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"Fast Food Capital" Shapes Up to Fight Obesity

Once upon a time, the Western Kentucky town of Owensboro was known for its dubious distinction as the "Fast Food Capital of the World." It was a well-deserved title, as it was found to order more fast food per capita than anywhere else.

A little more than a decade later, the damage to the health of Owensboro became readily apparent in the results of a health survey: 60 PERCENT of that area's population was found to be either obese or overweight. Since that 2000 survey, local school and health officials were "scared straight" into working together to stop the growing blight that is childhood obesity.

City schools and hospitals pitched in to provide some $750,000 for exercise equipment at 11 Owensboro schools. A new physical education initiative -- bucking the national trend of eliminating these classes -- keeps classes active for up to 60 minutes a session on stationary bikes, treadmills, rowing machines and weightlifting stations.

The town's superintendent for public schools summed it up best: "We're not coming at this from an enlightenment standpoint, but from NECESSITY. We had a high percentage of kids headed for diabetes. It doesn't do a kid any good to be a validictorian if he's going to be DEAD AT 30 from a heart attack."

Today's cover story in USA Today praised Owensboro as a great model for its fitness program, primarily focused on instilling a lifetime approach to exercise, one of the building blocks of optimal wellness. If you want to get your kids started on an exercise program, check out the work of our contributing editors Ben Lerner and Paul Chek.

USA Today December 16, 2004

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