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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — In its annual “fat” report, the Trust for America’s Health reported that adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year.

The report — “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America” — also states that today’s children are likely to be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents, with some 25 million children already obese or overweight.

And while obesity rates among adults in military communities may not be as high as the national average because servicemembers must meet certain weight standards, it’s unclear exactly how many children of military members would be defined as obese.

Officials at the Europe Regional Medical Command were unable to respond to queries by deadline on how many children in Army and Air Force communities in Europe were obese. Navy medical officials at the base in Naples, Italy, are in the early stages of developing a database from which they hope to track overweight children.

“We know childhood obesity is on the rise, and it’s going to continue to rise if we don’t deal with it,” said Navy Lt. Jennifer Wallinger, the sole nutritionist at the U.S. Naval Hospital Naples.

The Navy program won’t be up and running until at least October, she said. A primary care physician will be the first contact, and refer a child to Wallinger, who then will enter the child’s information into the database. From there, experts can track the child’s progress, to see what weight-loss programs work or don’t work, she said.

Likewise, she said, she takes whatever opportunity possible to visit schools and other children’s programs to talk about good nutrition and exercise, she said.

For its part, Department of Defense Dependents Schools officials said they don’t track the number of obese children, according to instructional systems specialist Karen Seadore, but they take the issue seriously and have programs aimed at battling the bulge.

“Have we collected a lot of data? Do we know the status of our kids compared to stateside kids? No,” Seadore said.

However, DODDS has always recognized the risk of obesity for children who don’t move, she said.

The Catch PE program, introduced in 2001, emphasizes physical fitness, Seadore said.

“It involves a lot of movement activities. We are moving away from the traditional games and sports and moving more into a movement platform, with a lot of cardiovascular activities added, focusing on fitness components that we assess such as sit-ups, pull-ups, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness,” she said.

Another program, Fitnessgram, is a computer-based fitness assessment used in DODDS-Europe schools that rates students’ fitness based on their age. The program generates a report for students and their parents to show a child’s fitness relative to other children his or her age, Seadore said.

The program also offers tips on staying in shape, she said.

Students at Grafenwöhr do the Fitnessgram testing twice a year — first as a base line and later to see how they have improved throughout the year, said Middle School PE teacher Mark Moore. On Tuesday afternoon, Moore was teaching a class in which children ran around a patch of asphalt, throwing Frisbees, kicking soccer balls and twirling Hula Hoops.

Students take the 90-minute class every other day.

The class includes a warm-up with stretching and running and games such as flag football.

“The emphasis is on individual skills like how to throw, run and catch and working on their balance and coordination. We will also do some team sports so they get used to cooperating with each other,” Moore said.

High school students now required to have 18 months of PE

The Department of Defense school system does not require physical education classes in elementary and middle schools.

Local administrators determine frequency of classes, which vary from once every three days to once every six days at elementary schools, according to instructional systems specialist Karen Seadore.

Some middle schools, she said, require students to take PE classes each semester.

Starting this year, DODDS-Europe is requiring high school students to complete 1.5 credits (18 months of PE classes) before they can graduate, she said.

There also is the high school athletics program — which includes sports such as football, baseball, basketball and soccer — a variety of intramural middle school programs and some after-school programs for elementary school students.

“If you want to fight the obesity issue we have to have kids active every single day,” she said.

— Seth Robson

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