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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                       (Chula Vista, California)
For Immediate Release                                      June 23, 2000



SUBJECT: Enhancing Efforts to Promote the Health of Our Young People

Through Physical Activity and Participation in Sports

Physical activity and participation in sports are central to the overall health and well-being of children and adults. Adolescence is an especially important time to establish the habit of participation in daily physical activity. Sports and physical activity can introduce young people to skills such as teamwork, self-discipline, and sportsmanship. Lack of recreational activity, on the other hand, may contribute to making young people more vulnerable to gangs, drugs, or violence. Studies consistently show that adolescents who engage in regular physical activity have higher self-esteem and lower anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, daily enrollment in high school physical education classes dropped from 42 percent to 29 percent between 1991 and 1999 and about 14 percent of young people ages 12-21 report no recent physical activity at all. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than doubled.

The extent of this problem should not be underestimated. Last year, for example, the United States spent over $68 billion, or 6 percent of the Nation's health care expenditures, on direct health care costs related to obesity. According to the landmark 1996 Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactivity and poor diet contribute to nearly 300,000 deaths in the United States annually. In conjunction with the recent National Nutrition Summit hosted by my Administration -- the first in over three decades -- I released revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including a new guideline recommending regular physical activity.

My Administration has an ongoing multi-pronged effort to promote physical activity and fitness. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Participation continues to play an important role in promoting physical fitness and sports participation nationwide. A key part of the Council's work is the President's Challenge Youth Physical Fitness Awards Program, which offers awards for participation and excellence in a set of physical fitness assessments to encourage 2.9 million students to improve and maintain physical fitness. The Department of Health and Human Services' National Youth Sports Program collaborates with participating colleges to provide summer sports programs in college environments to youth living in areas of urban and rural poverty. Currently, over 70,000 children at over 200 colleges and universities through this program can improve their physical fitness and health habits while becoming acquainted with post-secondary educational opportunities.

The Department of Education also promotes physical activity and health in schools. My Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization proposal includes "Lifelong Physical Activity" discretionary grants as part of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Building on current demonstration projects by the Centers for Disease Control, this initiative would authorize funding for sites to implement programs that promote lifelong physical activity and health awareness during and after school by linking physical education with health education.-

These efforts, and many similar public and private initiatives around the country, are encouraging. We must now build on this groundwork by developing additional strategies for promoting physical fitness and participation in sports, which are essential to improving individual and community health.

Therefore, I direct you to identify and report back to me within 90 days on strategies to promote better health for our Nation's youth through physical activity and fitness, including:

  1. Promoting the renewal of physical education in our schools, as well as the expansion of after-school programs that offer physical activities and sports in addition to enhanced academics and cultural activities;
  2. Encouraging participation by private sector partners in raising the level of physical activity and fitness among our youth; and
  3. Promoting greater coordination of existing public and private resources that encourages physical activity and sports.

In developing these strategies, you shall work with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and other private and nongovernmental sports organizations, as appropriate.

By identifying effective new steps and strengthening public-private partnerships, we will advance our efforts to prepare the Nation's young people for lifelong physical fitness.


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