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Bad Ranking

W.Va. second-highest in child obesity rate

Some West Virginians have become accustomed to muttering, with a chuckle, “Thank heaven for Mississippi, otherwise we’d be dead last in everything.” But there is nothing funny about a new state-by-state ranking. It involves the health of our children.

West Virginia has the nation’s second-highest rate of obesity among children, according to a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. About 20.9% of Mountain State youngsters ages 10-17 are obese, the foundation concluded. Mississippi, at 25.4%, had the worst showing.

Ohioans are not far behind in the rankings — 10th worst, at 17.1%.

As we reported, the study’s findings are not surprising. “I think that is a pretty fair representation, unfortunately,” Wheeling Hospital pediatrician Dr. Claire Paxton told our reporter.

Childhood obesity is a problem both while children are young and as they grow into adulthood. The prospect is that someone overweight at 17 will continue to struggle with the problem in later life.

Government and private-sector initiatives can help youngsters battling with their waistlines, as we also reported. Initiatives to encourage children to drink water instead of sugary beverages and to eat both healthier foods and smaller portions are productive to some extent. So are public school nutrition programs that emphasize healthy foods.

But government is not the answer to all our problems. Taking responsibility for ourselves — and our children — is the key.

Many of us have busy lives, making it tempting to stop at a fast-food restaurant and grab something to take home for dinner. And it is easier to stop junior from whining for a soft drink by handing him one instead of giving him an empty glass to be filled at the sink. And, of course, who has time for exercise, much less to encourage the children to get enough?

In large measure, knowing how to give our children health foods and drinks is a matter of common sense. Not doing so is a decision, even if often made subconsciously.

The bottom line is that for many obese children, the fault is not theirs. It is ours, as parents and grandparents — and that needs to change.

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