LYONS, NEBRASKA – Nebraska is facing a growing problem, with obesity rankings in the top quarter of states among high school students and an even higher ranking for obese adults.
To help reverse this public health trend, the Center for Rural Affairs is working with lawmakers to improve access to water in Nebraska schools.
Last week, Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln introduced Legislative Bill 1116, which would adopt the New School Construction and Water Access Act.
“Today our schools are more than a place to read and write,” Morfeld said. “This is where students build the habits that will carry them into adulthood. Encouraging smart choices today is an investment in a healthy tomorrow.”
This effort developed in response to the findings of a recent report, “Addressing Obesity in Nebraska’s Youth: Water Consumption in Schools.” Released by the Center for Rural Affairs, the white paper examines the state’s obesity rates and how increased consumption of water, especially by youth, can lead to long-term health benefits and decreased health care costs.
“Increased water consumption has been found to reduce levels of dental decay, positively impact cognition, improve overall eating and physical activity habits, and reduce the risks for obesity,” said Jordan Rasmussen, assistant policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.
According to the paper, less than one-third of children and adolescents meet or exceed recommendations for daily water consumption and one-fourth of adolescents drink less than one serving per day. Each obese child carries with them an estimated $19,000 price tag in future health care and loss of productivity costs.
Schools, Rasmussen said, can play a role in curbing those numbers.
“Due to the time young people spend there, schools are a natural location for proactive, cost-effective interventions to build healthy habits,” she said.
Right now, schools are asked to follow two conflicting requirements when planning for new school construction. LB 1116 sets one standard. The bill would also ensure at least one drinking fountain be installed on each floor of a new school building, a practice widely accepted among Nebraska schools. The bill only applies to new school construction.
“This bill is an opportunity for educators and members of the community to work together toward a common goal,” Rasmussen said. “By building healthy habits early, we can help stem the tide of obesity and give our students the best chance for success.”
Click here for more information or to view “Addressing Obesity in Nebraska’s Youth: Water Consumption in Schools.