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New Group Combats Childhood Obesity By Taking On Drinks

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Linh Bui joined WJZ Eyewitness News in July 2013 as a reporter/weekend...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Childhood obesity is a huge problem in Maryland. Now health advocates are teaming up with state lawmakers to push for change. The new coalition was announced in Annapolis Wednesday.

Linh Bui has more on their efforts.

Several organizations are part of this coalition, including the American Heart Association and the NAACP, and it’s tackling two critical public health problems.

Childhood obesity and teen diabetes are twin epidemics plaguing our state.

“One in three kids in Maryland today is an unhealthy weight and if we don’t do anything about it, this will be the first generation of kids to live shorter lives than their parents for the first time in history,” said Sugar Free Kids Executive Director Robi Rawl.

Rawl is executive director of Sugar Free Kids, a new coalition to improve the health of Maryland children and they’re supporting a bill to limit sugary drinks.

According to the proposed legislation, restaurants would only be able to offer healthy drink options on children’s menus, like bottled water. Other beverages–like soda–would cost extra.

According to doctors, a child who drinks one soda a day is 60 percent more likely to become obese and has a 30 percent chance of developing diabetes.

But the Restaurant Association of Maryland opposes this legislation, saying parents should have a choice.

“What it really does is put the restaurant in a difficult position of punishing the parent by charging them more for what the advocates believe is a bad decision,” said Melvin Thompson.

For Irene Robertson, who has three kids, the choice is easy.

“It’s like giving your children candy. Most parents know I’m not gonna give my kids a Snickers bar for breakfast but giving them Hi-C or basically dessert with their meal and then dessert on top of that? It just doesn’t work,” she said.

The coalition argues children learn healthy behaviors early so the time to act is now.

The coalition also supports another bill that would require child care centers serve healthier drinks.

According to a new CDC report, the obesity rate has dropped for kids ages two to five, but it’s remained the same for older children.

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