Wisconsin kids not getting enough PE

Wisconsin is falling short when it comes to getting kids moving in schools to prevent childhood obesity and combat cancer, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

How Do You Measure up?: A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality evaluates each state’s activity on issues crucial to winning the fight against cancer. The report by ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, finds that Wisconsin did not measure up to benchmarks in the physical education time requirements category for elementary and middle school.

“Wisconsin clearly needs to do more to combat childhood obesity and strengthening the physical education requirements—especially among elementary and middle school students—is a critical component to reaching that goal,” said Allison Miller, Wisconsin government relations director for ACS CAN.

Currently, Wisconsin only requires k-6 grade students to have physical education three times a week and middle school students are required to have it just once a week, for no specified time period. ACS CAN recommends schools require 150 minutes of physical education each week for elementary students and 225 minutes per week for middle school students. At least 50 percent of that class time should be spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

“Kids are in school at least eight hours a day making schools a natural place to address the alarming problem of childhood obesity and provide all children with skills that will carry through beyond the classroom and keep them active for life,” said Miller. “By helping kids form healthy habits we can reduce the number of cancer diagnoses and deaths in Wisconsin and cut back the estimated $3.1 billion the state pays annually in obesity-related health care costs.”

Overweight, obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition are estimated to be responsible for one-third of all cancers. Obesity is directly linked to breast and colon cancer—two of the most common forms of the disease—among others, and threatens to overtake tobacco as the number one preventable cause of cancer in the country.

“Now is the time to take action and truly devote ourselves to tackling this problem. If we don’t, we risk losing the progress we’ve made reducing cancer incidence and death. More importantly, we risk losing an entire generation to premature death from chronic disease,” said Miller.

Wisconsin’s obesity rate has more than doubled since 1990 and without intervention it’s estimated more than half of all Wisconsin adults will be overweight within the next 15 years.

The nationwide How Do You Measure Up? report includes nine other key policy areas: breast and cervical cancer early detection program funding; tanning bed restrictions for minors; smoke-free laws; tobacco prevention program funding; tobacco taxes; improved access to Medicaid; policies to prevent and treat pain and access to palliative care.

The report also offers a blueprint for effective legislation on matters such as effectively implementing the Affordable Care Act for cancer patients and their families.

To see how Wisconsin measured up in all categories, visit www.acscan.org.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.