Fix Our Healthcare System Or Our Children Are Going To Explode!
Finally there is something on which both Democrats and Republicans can agree -- our healthcare system is failing and in need of major overhaul. The current administration is desperate to finally take on the special interests, but may be too late for our current generation of children. For the first time in history, the life expectancy of the next generation is going to be lower than the present one!
This week, First Lady Michelle Obama sat down for an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. Mrs. Obama recognized that childhood obesity is a real problem that needs to be addressed. With more than 39% of all African American children severely overweight or obese, this is arguably the worse crisis to affect African Americans since slavery. Caucasian children are suffering the same fate at a rate of 1 in 4 and are also at risk for diabetes and other chronic illnesses that cost this nation approximately $120 Billion dollars a year. Mrs Obama stopped short of calling childhood obesity a crisis and yet by 2010 nearly 287 million children are expected to be severely overweight or obese -- nearly twice the number reported in 2000. The First Lady also expressed concerns about what our children are eating as it contributes to obesity, and while that’s an important part of the issue, it is only part of it.
So what is making our kids fat? Is it McDonalds? Is it television? Are parents and caregivers to blame? Is it the broadcasters? The Government? We all point our chubby little fingers at each other and no one takes any of the blame. The simple answer is yes. It’s every one of us who sits back and watches idly as it happens. Childhood obesity is an epidemic.
We are no longer living in a time where Johnny and Joanie have a healthy snack after school and then go play with their friends for a few hours before dinner, nor where they have phys-ed in school at least three days a week and nor sadly in a time where kids ride their bikes to school and around the neighborhood. These days, we drive them to school (no more walking 10 miles through a snowstorm like our grandparents and great-grandparents liked to remind us), they sit in a classroom all day long, and are then driven home, where they gobble down their dinner, do their three hours of homework and then play video games either online or on TV. And they TV. Boy do they watch TV… hours and hours of TV.
Our children sit passively watching their favorite programs day after day, munching on their fried snacks and fast food lunches which are loaded down with sugar. Caregivers use television as a babysitter, as a treat and as a source of education for their children and that is not going to change anytime soon. If we want to make a difference then we need to find a way to take the passive viewing experience and turn it into an active one.
While we have made great strides in producing programs that teach our children to read, learn a new language, and the values of family and friendship, we don’t do nearly enough to encourage them to get up and be active. The fact is that less than 11% of all children in the US get more thanONE hour of outdoor play a WEEK.
If we are going to effectively deal with the issue of obesity in our children then we have to look at how the current state of the economy is effecting and affecting the modern family. Money is tight and many parents are worried about how they are going to make ends meet and for many children that means that there are no after school “active” activities and more passive viewing.
As someone who has worked in the children’s entertainment industry for almost two decades, I am seeing the crushing effects that this recession is having on the family. Families cannot afford vacations and have created the concept of “staycations.” They are relying on the television to keep their kids entertained and as a result children are just sedentary.
After experiencing phenomenal success with Thomas the Tank Engine, The Teletubbies, Eloise and several other children’s entertainment properties, I decided to take some well needed space from the industry. But stories kept resurfacing about childhood obesity. At first they frightened and saddened me but at some point it started to anger me because it seemed that no one was looking at the obvious solution. Then I the realized that I had no choice but to try to enroll myself in to fighting the battle of the bulge.
My career has been built on the premise that you have to give the audience what they want or they will get it from some other source and as a result I could not believe how much resistance I received from broadcasters with the premise of “active viewing.” I would have thought that they would welcome the fact that I understand what children like and what parents want. I was shocked to hear over and over again that while the idea is important, it just is “jazzy’ enough. I was about to give up when I discovered Wii.
Nintendo deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for what they’ve done with Wii Fit. They have proven the viability of active programming. Television is not totally to blame, it is not the medium but the content that is causing so many of the health problems plaguing our children. Wii Fit is a prime example. We need our children up and active at a young age. They need to know that exercise is fun. Nintendo gave me the determination to push ahead.
My company recently decided that with the core idea of active programming, we would create a new theatrical experience for the entire family; The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure is an active viewing experience in the cinema which encourages children in a fun way to get up and participate in the movie experience. They get to sing and do little dances in the theater, and not even realize that they are “exercising.”
We really need to arm young parents with the ammunition that they need to keep their children eating well and active – and with one in four American children being either severely overweight or obese, do we have any other choice?
Kenn Viselman Presents
THE OOGIELOVES WILL SOON BE SEEN IN THEIR FIRST FEATURE FILM,THE FIRST EVER INTERACTIVE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE, ‘THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLON ADVENTURE’ MOVIE FEATURING, CLORIS LEACHMAN, JAIME PRESSLY, TONI BRAXTON, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD, CHAZZ PALMENTERI
For additional information about Mr. Viselman and/or the Oogieloves, please contact:
THE OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE