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A grim milestone for Tennessee's obesity problem


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TNS/WMOT)  --  One Tennessee child in five is classified as obese and the state ranks fifth in the nation for overweight children.

That finding was released this week in a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

East Tennessee’s Kindall Hurley with the Childhood Obesity Coalition says many of the state’s children simply don’t have access to healthy food.

"In some of our rural areas, the options are typically gas stations, McDonald's. In those places where they actually can get food, the food is not necessarily a healthy option."

Kathleen Casey, a child obesity specialist at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, says our shift towards screen use isn't helping. By one estimate kids 8 to 18 spend seven hours a day in front of a screen.

“Children are on screens more - whether it be computer, video games, cell phones - and they're more on the screens than actually out there playing outside and doing different things like that."

Studies find that for each hour of television viewing per day, children consume an additional 167 calories. Casey says it’s important parents set a good example.

"Be a good role model. Letting them try new foods, healthy foods. Parents themselves eating good foods. Parents can just go outside and play different games with their kids instead of just sitting, watching them, maybe if they interact with them more."

Unlike many states, Tennessee public schools are mandated by state law to make physical education part of the curriculum. However, there currently is no minimum requirement.