FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2009
Austin, TX — Yesterday the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 395 by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. that would create the Early Childhood Health and Nutrition Interagency Council, a six-agency collaborative effort to address health and obesity issues for children under the age of six.
"This bill addresses a significant population that we have previously excluded from our efforts to curb obesity rates in Texas," said Sen. Lucio. "Ignoring this population is short-sighted because we know that now at least one out of every four children between the ages of two and five are overweight or obese."
Studies show that 75 percent of children who are overweight during these crucial developmental years will be overweight as adults.
"We have addressed P.E. and school nutrition policy, now we need to assist our schools so their entering kindergarteners don't start their academic careers with poor health," explained Sen. Lucio. "We are asking the Council that would be formed through SB 395 to create a six-year plan to address activity and nutrition in early childhood populations. The Council must also develop recommendations on the implementation of their plan and provide biennial reports to the Legislature to chronicle their work."
The Senator also commended Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples for his commitment to lowering obesity rates in Texas and said he "is so pleased with the leadership Commissioner Staples has demonstrated in this critical area."
The Council would be administratively linked to the Department of Agriculture, which Sen. Lucio believes will lead to great results and success.
Currently, there are almost no statewide activity or nutrition standards for childcare centers and pre-kindergarten programs, indicating a desperate need for this legislation. The State Demographer and the Comptroller have recently stated that unless Texas takes serious action now, the number of obese Texans could triple within 30 years, and by 2040 the associated price tag could reach $39 billion.
"The earlier we start to address this issue in an individual's life, the less we are likely to have to invest later on," added Sen. Lucio. "SB 395, if enacted, will not only curb the growing trend of overweight and obesity among our youngest populations, but help offer them a healthier future."
The bill must next be considered by the full Senate.