Congressman Jim Himes today congratulated St. Cecilia School in Stamford for earning the President’s Challenge State Championship Award.  The award highlights St. Cecilia’s programs as examples of the type of education efforts essential to healthy lifestyle.

Throughout debate in Congress over health care reform, Rep. Himes has been an ardent supporter of policies that would promote health—not just health care—as key to improving the wellness of the American people while simultaneously reducing costs in the system. To that end, Representative Himes recently co-sponsored several pieces of legislation further promoting the importance of fitness and wellness: The STOP Obesity Act, the Obesity Treatment and Wellness Act, and the Food Marketing in Schools Assessment Act.

“My congratulations to the students at St. Cecilia for their hard work and commitment to their own health,” said Congressman Himes. “As we look for ways to root out costs in the health care system, helping kids learn how to manage their own well-being is a great place to start because healthy kids become healthy adults.”

Studies show that obesity accounts for a significant and growing portion of our nation’s health care costs, and Congressman Himes believes this legislation will help reverse that trend. The STOP Obesity Act will use existing state child immunization and health registries to track Body Mass Index (BMI).  Thousands of obesity prevention programs currently exist, but very little data is collected. These registries will help create cost-effective tools to determine the most valuable programs in the fight against childhood obesity. The Obesity Treatment and Wellness Act will require medical nutrition therapy to be included under Medicaid in order to treat and prevent obesity-related disease.  Last, the Food Marketing in Schools Assessment Act will also gather information on the types of food and beverage marketing in elementary schools and secondary schools in order to determine the extent of the marketing of low-nutrition foods.

According to the CDC, 16% of children (about 9 million) aged 6-19 are overweight or obese. These large numbers account for poor health in later life and, as a result, increased health care spending. Obesity-related spending accounts for 9.1 percent of all medical spending, and may be as high as $147 billion per year. While health care spending increases, so does food marketing.  Last year the Federal Trade Commission issued a report on food marketing expenses made by 44 of the biggest food marketers to youth. These companies spent $186 million on in-school food and beverage marketing. However, they did not provide details on the types and amounts of the foods being marketed.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports advises the President through the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on matters involving physical activity and sports participation. This award is presented annually to three schools in each state with the highest number of students scoring at or above the 85th percentile on the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness Test. 12.54% of St. Cecilia’s students scored above the 85th percentile.