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Our Answer to the Child Health Crisis: Action Heroes

by Rob Bisceglie, CEO

In the stressful yet wondrous moments each of my three kids were born, the only question I needed an answer to was: “Are they healthy?” Thankfully, the answer I received was yes. And when I heard it, I remember tears of joy and relief flowing down my face. I’ve never stopped asking that question, even as my children have grown. If you’re like me, and like nearly every other parent I’ve ever met, I bet you can relate. 

For years, I’ve been asking other parents a question of my own: “What’s the one thing you want most for your child?” I’ve asked this question to hundreds of parents from all walks of life, and without fail, their answer is always the same. Time and again, it’s some variation of “I want my child to be happy and healthy.”

As parents or people who have kids in our lives whom we love, we understand on an almost primordial level that happiness and health are inextricably linked, and that they’re essential to a bright future for our children. The scientific community agrees. Every day, the research becomes clearer that a child’s physical and mental health are proven to affect their school performance, cognitive ability, chances of success, and overall well-being. 

Despite the evidence that supports the important role health plays in all aspects of our lives, and our society’s obsession with health and fitness, our country is struggling when it comes to improving child health. The U.S has the worst overall child mortality rate compared to the 19 other wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and also ranks last in life expectancy compared to other high-income countries.

At risk of sounding alarmist, it’s our duty to call this situation what it is—a child health crisis. Not only that, since our country long ago declared that health is a human right, it’s clear that we’re facing a fundamental human rights crisis. Things have to change. The need to turn our good intentions into action has never been more urgent. So, where do we go from here? 

At Action for Healthy Kids, we’ve taken time to reflect on the root causes of the child health crisis and adjust our approach to addressing it together with you. Here’s what we know and what we’re hoping to do next.

First, it’s clear that despite the severity of our child health crisis, our society is still not doing enough to foster better child health outcomes. We’re treating child health like it’s a second tier issue, when in reality, it is one of the most pressing problems of our time. We know that our education system must play a key role in teaching children how to live healthier lifestyles, yet we continue to see that physical, mental and emotional health and well-being are under-resourced and deprioritized in too many schools across the country. 

But we also know that change cannot come from schools alone. We’re firm in our conviction that it is our collective responsibility as a society to ensure every child is healthy, active and ready to learn and thrive. That’s why we’re committing to do even more to create opportunities for parents, educators, organizations and communities to take action together to disrupt the status quo and make schools, homes and our communities altogether places where healthy habits are formed and supported.

We’re starting by providing new ways for you to learn about the child health crisis, connect with others who care, and take action together. A few examples:

  • We’re rededicating ourselves to better understand health equity and to make sure that we learn as much as we can from community-level champions who have inspired our work for years.
  • We’re introducing a series of monthly articles (like this one) to share what we learn about the key issues surrounding child health and inspire you to take action in your own community.
  • We’ve redesigned our website to make it easier for you to learn about the inspiring  efforts we support and admire, and help you find ways to get involved.
  • We’re encouraging discussions about child health on social media and uplifting the voices of those who are leading the charge to solve this problem.

We also realize that discussion and discourse are not enough. Action is essential. That’s why we’re doubling down on our commitment to bring educators, parents, organizations and communities together to take transformative action that improves child health outcomes through initiatives like Game On, grants to schools and teams of parents, and our growing Parents for Healthy Kids initiative. Programs like these—from Action for Healthy Kids and many of our partners—are proven to make a meaningful impact on the health of our country’s children, but they only work with your involvement, support, and most importantly, leadership. Change will only happen if we take action together.

We have both a moral imperative and an economic rationale for investing in the health of our kids. These are two sides of the same coin. No matter where your motivation is derived, the argument for getting involved is strong. From an economic perspective, UNICEF found that investing in children will bolster overall productivity, reduce health costs and improve social capital. Did you know, for example, that the U.S. now spends an estimated $147 billion to $210 billion per year on obesity-related health care alone? At the same time, it’s clear that if we collectively set the just and equitable course for the future by making sure every child learns to lead a healthy lifestyle, today’s children will grow into thriving adults. Either way, our entire country will reap the benefits.

Now, we need your help—we need you to be the action hero our children need. There are many ways you can support Action for Healthy Kids and end the child health crisis, whether you’re a parent, educator, community activist, business person or someone who cares about our kids and our country. Here are just a few:

The time for talking about this issue has long passed; it’s time for real action. We’ll be sharing many more resources about the child health crisis and ideas about how you can make a difference in the coming months. Sign up here to stay in the loop, and don’t forget to share articles like these with your network. Who knows…they just might spark important discussions and meaningful action in your own community.

We hope you’ll join us in helping every kid be happy, healthy and ready to take on the world.