At City Hall, Dr. Kenneth Cooper Declares the Health of Dallas Children a "Disaster"

Categories: City Hall, News
kennethcooper.jpg
Kenneth Cooper at Dallas City Hall this morning
For a good hour or so this morning, there was a parade of people to the briefing-room podium at Dallas City Hall to discuss the Mayor's Youth Fitness Initiative, funded with $1 million worth of seed money from Oncor. Among those on hand: Mike Rawlings, Park Board president and would-be mayoral candidate; Paul Dyer, head of Parks and Rec; Oncor veep Debbie Dennis, last seen at City Hall explaining why communications during last February's winter storm were so godawful; and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, namesake of the Aerobics Center and Institute.

You can read the briefing, but long story short: Dallas schoolchildren are overweight, out of shape and at risk for diabetes. And it's getting worse every year: As Cooper noted, two years ago just one in five Dallas third-graders passed the state-mandated FitnessGram assessment, and that number drops with each passing year.

"The results have been a disaster," he told the council, insisting that Dallas has "the seventh-fattest children in the U.S." And, again, he said: "It's a disaster, and it'll be worse in the future with diabetes, hypertension, etc."

He spoke at length about the "perfect correlation between levels of fitness and the grades kid make in school," about the "clear relationship between absenteeism and dropout rates as relates to fitness," and about how it all ties back to "drug and gang violence." Said Cooper, it has nothing to do with economics either: In Highland Park ISD, he said, "only 33 percent of their third-graders could pass the test."

At present, there's no clear funding for the program save for Oncor's seed money; a full budget is expected to be presented to council in the spring. This morning's speakers said they want to see it take hold, initially, in 14 of the city's rec centers. One of the models: the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center, home of Baylor's new Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute.

But, cautioned Dennis, "this initiative seeks to make a difference -- not overnight, not through a single program." There are still myriad questions to answer -- like, how do you get kids to rec centers they don't use, and how will the program be funded asides from funds promised by such partners as the Dallas Mavericks, the Texas Rangers, FC Dallas and the Cowboys.

Council members were asked to submit their suggestions for rec centers at which to roll out the program; Rawlins suggested a competition amongst the 14 members. "Let's see who can get the most kids signed up," he said. "I believe in competition -- rack 'em, stack 'em."

But, first, Tennell Atkins wants City Manager Mary Suhm to explain how this will impact the Parks and Rec budget (the mayor and others repeatedly said the city will not contribute a single cent to the MyFi program). Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway insisted any fruit bought to dole out at rec centers -- a key component of the program -- come from the downtown Dallas Farmers Market.

"We must take care of those who are part of our system," he said. "Keep the money and economic growth growing within our own communities."

Steve Salazar cautioned against getting too big too fast. "Money doesn't solve everything," he said. Pauline Medrano suggested bringing in the community gardens and using the existing bike-n-hike trails. And Ron Natinsky wants kids off their damned cell phones during exercise class. Well, sure.

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20 comments
JT
JT

'Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway insisted any fruit bought to dole out at rec centers -- a key component of the program -- come from the downtown Dallas Farmers Market.'

Brilliant! Farmers Market subsidized in the name of the children.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I've seen lots of moms over the years; kids health all comes down to the mom.

Teachers can't count the number of kids given vouchers for free glasses only to see the mom never get around to taking the child in or the mom never making time to replace the broken/damaged/lost pairs of glasses.

Add free services to the fact that even affluent kids in HP are overweight and out of shape and you quickly see that funding isn't the issue, so more funding won't be the answer.

If the mom values healthy, fit kids, the child will be healthy and fit.If the mom accepts no responsibility for ensuring the child's level of health and fitness, the child will not be healthy and fit.

Same goes for education.

trek1red
trek1red

If you want kids to use Rec Centers, how about funding them so they are open at night when the kids are out of school. It is a question of priorities. Children rank low on the totem pole. They can't vote or give money so we depend on the kindness of strangers to fund activities for children.

JT
JT

I finally found the fitness standards for boys and girls.

http://www.cooperinstitute.org...

I'm no spring chicken, but I usually walk or bike to work, and get plenty of excercise. I doubt seriously I could do half this crap. 7:00 mile? Not a chance. 14 pull-ups? Doubtful. I'm not overweight, but I would fail this test miserably. I'm not surprised that most children who don't regularly participate in athletics and weight training could not pass this test.

JT
JT

' There are still myriad questions to answer -- like, how do you get kids to rec centers they don't use'

Brainwashing in the schools, of course. Sorry Dallas, but you can't educate away hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Short of completely controlling a student's activities and diet, both at school and at home, nothing is going to work, no matter how perfectly crafted the ad campaign is.

heyheymama
heyheymama

I'm going to throw in my 2-cents worth as a mom.

Issue #1 (and I'll dare to call it the biggest): parental fear. Kids no longer walk to and from school and no longer play outside all afternoon because mommy and daddy are afraid the bad guys will kidnap their child off of the street. Does your school have crossing guards? Where is the bike rack - in the back, in a patch of weeds? Assuming you send them to the neighborhood school.

Issue #2: kids' schedules. Homework & extra-curriculars eat up an enormous amount of time. Soccer practice does not burn the same amount of energy as playing around the neighborhood for 3-4 hours.

Issue #3: parents' schedules. Latch-key kids stay indoors (see Issue #1). Kids go to after-school care, where they might not get lots of activity (see homework in Issue #2). When mom/dad get home from work, there's no time to go outside, especially when it gets dark at 5:30 in the winter.

As I write this, my son and all the kids on our street have been outside since 7am, with short warming-up breaks. This is as it should be. Oops, gotta go feed the troops...

Rooster
Rooster

Here's a simple solution for all parents.......I realize you're rushed, but stop feeding your kid 4 meals a week served from a drive-through window, and your kid won't be so fat.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I'm as bleeding heart as the next guy, but welfare and food stamps have to be reformed to get anywhere on this. It's insane to hand a blank check to someone who was too irresponsible to wait until he/she could afford a child, and expect that their decision-making when it comes to raising the child will be any better-informed.I'm so sick of people calling it "condescending" to give people money to feed their children but God forbid we tell them what kinds of food to buy.

Derelict
Derelict

its funny how white people think they can throw money at a problem and it will make a difference. it all starts at home - if your fat mom is eating donuts and dr pepper for breakfast chances are the kid is going to eat donuts, dr. pepper and oh throw in a bag of cheetos too.

cp
cp

Yeah that makes all the sense in the world.... yes please help us feed kids at rec centers for free, but don't bother unless you feed them from the places that we tell you to.... ??? Kind of a weird extortion attempt, only the losers are the extorters and the children. He really is out of his mind, drunk with power.

heyheymama
heyheymama

I agree with your comment about affluent families. The real "currency" is not money, but time, carving out time to be outdoors, whether that's walking to school or playing outdoors.

Our affluent friends have big homes in new neighborhoods, no front yards and postage-stamp backyards, which is just a recipe for keeping kids cooped up inside with electronics. Typically, two incomes are needed to support these homes and, consequently, such parent and child schedules won't allow for much outdoor playtime. Also, in my world of North Dallas, these families do not send their kids to their neighborhood DISD school and miss out on a daily opportunity to walk.

We live in an older neighborhood, with small homes and big yards, which means the kids will drive you bonkers in that confined space - so outdoors they go. (BTW, this is where mom comes in, because we're the ones who push them out the door.) When the affluent friends come over, those kids really and truly do not know how to cross the street safely or to be mindful of cars backing out of driveways, which is where the risk lies in being outside. A risk easily mitigated by teaching basic life skills.

Anonymous
Anonymous

This is the real culprit. It's why we will spend thousands to keep an invalid alive an extra 24 hours but we won't fully fund medical care for children that could (in theory) become productive, contributing members of society.

Brent D.
Brent D.

To clarify it's a modified pull-up and the body weight isn't suspended. 7:00 mile is the upper end with an 8:30 mile on the lower end. One mile in less than 8:30 isn't much faster than a jog.

Daniel
Daniel

I remember roving all over the neighborhood by bike and by foot as early as age 5. I walked to and from school beginning in the first grade. I can't help but wonder if my mom would have the CPS called on her these days. Actually, no I don't wonder.

G_David
G_David

I don't think kids are in any more danger outside than we were 30 years ago, but there sure is the perception that they are. Now, ANY time ANY kid gets kidnapped ANYwhere, it's all over television because that's what gets ratings. It creates a culture of fear that keeps kids inside. It's sad.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Don't forget the electronic devices that keep'em occupied - games, myface and spacebook, twits and tweets, about the only exercise is thumb related, texting.

JT
JT

And I think this is where all of those 'death panel' rumors were born...

JT
JT

And still I doubt I could accomplish half this stuff.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Agreed. One of the side effects of keeping your kids indoors is that they will drive you nuts. They will pester you and fight amongst themselves until you are ready to snap. So parents distract (anesthetize?) the kiddos with electronics. And if you're in fear of the boogey man snatching your kid, if yours and your kids' schedules are incompatible, you'll get him/her a cell phone asap.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Bring on the death panels...

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