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Florida Governor Charlie Crist And Shaquille O’Neal Battle Childhood Obesity

June 29, 2007 12:16 AM by Joe Blackmon

Governor Charlie Crist and Shaquille O’Neal, NBA Miami Heat basketball
star, recently joined efforts to encourage children and young adults
to adopt healthy lifestyles that include daily physical activity and
healthy eating habits. They participated in a rally for about 500
students from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Big Bend, after meeting
earlier in the day to discuss the Governor’s Council on Physical
Fitness and O’Neal’s primetime television show, "Shaq’s Big Challenge."

"Shaq’s Big Challenge," which debuted this week on the ABC Television Network, tells the story of six Broward County middle-school children struggling with weight problems as they meet with O’Neal’s team of experts, including a medical doctor, personal trainers, nutritionists and motivational professionals. The team has developed the Shaquille O’Neal Wellness Wheel physical education curriculum that includes three components for overall health — physical fitness, teen health and healthy home economics. The curriculum has been successfully implemented by Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach and Pines Middle School in Pembroke Pines.

"I congratulate Shaq for focusing his efforts on inspiring young people to live healthier lives," said Governor Crist. "And I also applaud the six young people on his show for making the commitment to change their eating and exercise habits. They show us that the choice to be more active and eat better food really does make a difference in a person’s quality of life."

"I want to commend Governor Crist for his commitment to healthier lifestyles for Florida’s kids. I’m glad he’s on the team," O’Neal said. "I look forward to working with him to teach our kids to eat, think and live healthy."

In recognition of O’Neal’s work to promote healthy lifestyles and battle childhood obesity, Governor Crist presented him with a Florida Commendation Medal. O’Neal’s awareness programs on childhood obesity significantly benefit the young people of Florida. "Your actions reflect great credit upon yourself and the citizens of Florida," Governor Crist said. "They are in keeping with the finest traditions of service to our state and to our nation."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, approximately 60 percent of overweight children have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and approximately 25 percent have two or more risk factors. Additionally, the Florida Department of Health estimates that 60 percent of adults in Florida are overweight or obese, and 25 percent of high school students are overweight, or at risk of becoming overweight.

Governor Crist has developed several initiatives to encourage Floridians to choose lifelong healthy exercise and eating habits that combat obesity. They include the following:

Appointed the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness – Established through Executive Order, the Council will develop a state plan of action to increase physical fitness through regular exercise and promote sound nutrition practices among Floridians of all ages, with the goal of reducing the rate of obesity and chronic disease in Florida’s children, adults and senior citizens in ten years. O’Neal is an honorary member of the council.

Implementing P.E. in every grade, every day – As a result of 2007 legislation, public school elementary students, grades K-5, must receive at least 30 minutes of physical education each day, which can include dance. Instruction should focus on strength, agility, flexibility, movement, stamina, teamwork, fair play and nutrition. Additionally, the Florida Department of Education will review and revise the Sunshine State Standards to reflect state-of-the-art physical education practices.

The Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness will explore the feasibility of providing physical education courses and activities every day for all students at the middle and high school (6-12) grade levels by the year 2012, with a particular emphasis on graduation requirements, ADA compliance and additional impacts on the school day.

Launched www.HealthyFloridians.com website, a convenient collection of state and federal health-related programs and services that includes a body mass index calculator and information on state parks and other ways to enjoy physical activity in Florida’s beautiful outdoors.

"Shaq’s Big Challenge" airs Tuesdays (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network, and the finale footage shot today airs Tuesday, July 31, 2007 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET).

Topics: Shaqs Big Challenge |

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