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For Immediate Release: October 4, 2000
Contact: CDC Media Relations (404) 639-3286
Many U.S. children are overweight, partly because physical activity is not part of their daily lives. The first International Walk Our Children to School Day on October 4 seeks to help reverse this trend, and will highlight the benefits of children's walking and bicycling to school as a way to promote health and the benefits of making communities more pedestrian-friendly.
David Satcher, Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary for Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, will help kick-off this year's event as he joins a group of children on October 4th walking to the East Silver Spring Elementary, Silver Spring Maryland. Walking groups will assemble at the Montgomery County Police Station at 801 Sligo Avenue at 8:30 a.m. and proceed to the school located at 630 Silver Spring Avenue. Dr. Satcher will make brief remarks at the school and will be available for interviews.
"Our young people need help to get moving," said Dr. Satcher. He noted that the number of overweight children has doubled in the past two decades, leading to a generation at risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other serious health problems. Physical inactivity is a major factor. Nearly half of all young people do not take part in regular, vigorous physical activity, and less than half of all high school students have regular physical education classes at school.
The Walk Our Children to School Day hopes to help remedy this problem by promoting travel to and from school as a safe, active, and enjoyable part of children's lives. Last year's event drew more than 300,000 walkers - children, parents, and community leaders - from some 170 cities across the nation. This year marks the first International Walk to School Day, with events planned in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Gibralter, and Cyprus.
To keep the initiative going all year, CDC has developed a new guide, "KidsWalk-to-School," to help parents and community members create safe routes to school. The guide focuses on a program oriented for children of all ages who live within walking distance of school, but can also be adapted for children who live farther away or do not have safe routes to school.
Besides boosting physical activity for children, other community benefits of providing safe walking and bicycling routes to school include reduced traffic in and around schools and residential areas, the potential for greater neighborhood social interaction, and reduced crime.
"Parents and schools have an important role in fostering positive environmental changes in the community," said Dr. Satcher. "Launching the KidsWalk-to-School program is a great example. By providing safe ways for young people to be active at home, in the community and at school, a Walk to School program can foster healthy lifestyles that will persist into adulthood."
To obtain a copy of the KidsWalk-to-School guide you may download it from the CDC Web site: www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/kidswalk.htm, request by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free 888-CDC-4NRG. For information about the Walk Our Children to School Day, visit http://www.walktoschool-usa.org, and for the international effort visit http://www.iwalktoschool.org.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
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