The 84th Legislature and Health and Fitness

This is one in a series of blog posts about our 2015 legislative agenda

Click here to download our policy agenda one-pager for child health and fitness.

Don’t get me wrong. Some health care issues are downright complicated. But when it comes to making sure kids can see a doctor when they need one and have access to opportunities to stay healthy, we work to make sure our lawmakers know there are simple, common sense policy solutions.

As it turns out, one of every three Texas kids is overweight or obese, which places an unnecessary burden on our children’s future and our health care system. This is why a big portion of our health agenda always includes policy solutions that will improve kids’ nutrition and fitness -- and this session is no exception. Improvements in nutrition and fitness are two of the simplest, most proactive ways to keep kids healthy and happy. Given that millions of Texas kids are in public schools, this is also an area where Texas lawmakers have a lot of influence.

This session, we’re prioritizing support for Texas schools and their efforts to increase opportunities for students to be healthy and physically active before, during, and after school. The solutions use community opportunities for physical activity, improved school policies, safe routes to school, coordinated school health, and fitness incentive programs. This includes taking a hard look at why schools have moved away from physical activity, what policies needs to change, and what support schools need to make sure kids have quality time for physical activity, like when I was a kid.

Just the other day I had a conversation with a mom from north Texas who was extremely disappointed that her kids were rarely receiving recess. As a mom, she felt there was no way her kids were going to be good learners without opportunities to get up and move during the day. Of course, her instincts are right. Research shows the benefits of physical activity for learning and attention are indisputable, but this session we need to make sure our lawmakers support physical activity by providing meaningful direction and resources to schools.

We believe making sure kids have time to play and move is one side of the solution and ensuring they have easy access to affordable, healthy food (and not too much exposure to junk food advertising and sugary drinks) is the other side of the solution. This is why we will also be working this session to ensure communities have access to affordable, healthy foods through school-based policies, community gardens, and support of farmers’ markets. To accomplish this, we’ll be working with lawmakers to expand the Brighter Bites program, which helps Texas Food Banks put fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of families that need them most. Additionally, we want to make sure local communities get a say in school-based advertising of unhealthy food and beverages. It’s our belief that if junk food is being marketed to kids while they are in school, parents have a right to know and provide input to their schools.

At Texans Care, we’ll also be hard at work sharing information about why we need policies to help kids reach for water instead of so many sugary drinks. One or more sugary drinks a day raises your risk of type II diabetes by 26%. Until recently, type II diabetes was called "adult-onset diabetes” – that is, until kids started getting it because of excessively sugary products, like soda. We think this is information every Texas kid, mom, and dad should have access to and we’ll be working with lawmakers to help spread the word. The legislature could help Texans immensely simply by directing our public health agency to spread the word about the importance of drinking water and the role sugary drinks play in poor health.

Finally, we’ll be prioritizing policies that ensure every Texas family has options for getting health care coverage and services when they need them. No family should have to use the ER as their primary provider or go bankrupt because of medical bills. When kids or their parents need to see a doctor, we want to make sure Texas has policies in place to ensure that they get timely and affordable access to care. We’re glad to see Texas leaders in business, health care, and other sectors calling on state leaders to accept our share of new Medicaid funding to close the Coverage Gap.

This session our health agenda is simple. It’s all about a Texas where kids get the nutrition and physical activity they need to stay healthy and good medical care if they need it.