April 26, 2021



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117

Email: jdorman@oica.org


For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA


Thurman Thomas, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell to Highlight Discussion on Childhood Obesity

CANTON, OH – AUGUST 4: Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas poses with his bust during the Class of 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Fawcett Stadium on August 4, 2007 in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Scott Boehm)

While many of the ideas considered positive by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) have advanced forward, one topic will develop into a summer initiative promoted by our organization.

We will unveil some of these goals on Thursday, April 29 on a Zoom call open to the public. This annual event is normally an in-person luncheon. This year, owing to the lingering pandemic, we will conduct it virtually.

This year’s Child Advocacy Luncheon will focus on the challenge Oklahoma has with childhood obesity and limited physical activity among our children, a problem that worsened by the pandemic.

OICA is honored to have Thurman Thomas, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Oklahoma State University alum, as headline speaker. We also will hear from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Dr. Chan Hellman, and Oklahoma’s Kid Governor Charlotte Anderson speaking on the topic. Details and a link to sign up are at https://oica.org.

This is important because nationally one-in-seven U.S. youth ages 10-17, a whopping 15.5%, have obesity issues according to the latest data from the combined 2018-19 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). For Oklahoma, it is even worse: we currently rank 8th with a child obesity rate of 18.8%.

Years ago, OICA spearheaded a program called the Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition. This collaborative effort by nonprofits, hospitals, and other advocates worked together over several years to implement a legislative agenda. This effort included enhanced physical education classes in K-12 schools, replacement of junk food in vending machines which healthier options, and awareness of nutrition to help reduce obesity with our youth.

With the selection of Charlotte as our 2021 Kid Governor, her goal is to help raise awareness about issues impacting young Oklahomans. Charlotte chose for her “platform” in the competition to work toward getting young people active. She has been a stellar role model for helping promote activity, especially coming out of the pandemic.

In addition, the Stitt Administration decided to focus on this topic this year. Lieutenant Governor Pinnell stepped forward to provide motivation to review Oklahoma’s problems with childhood obesity and lack of activity, working to find solutions. As this goes forward, I am confident under the leadership and vision of Lieutenant Governor Pinnell and Kid Governor Charlotte Anderson, and those working with them, we will see strides made.

To close this week’s column, I want to highlight two bills on this topic. Rep. Danny Sterling wrote House Bill 2381 requiring school districts to conduct annual fitness assessments for students in grades three through twelve during physical education classes. The measure passed the House of Representatives and awaits Senate consideration next year. With it, we hope to learn about correlations among student obesity, student attendance levels, student academic achievement levels, student disciplinary problems, and school meal programs.

The second bill is House Bill 1569 by Rep. Jacob Rosecrants focusing on “play-based learning.” That is learning activities for self-amusement that have behavioral, social, and psychomotor rewards. Play-based learning can mean child-directed activities that are joyful and spontaneous. The bill allows professional development for educators and prevents school districts from prohibiting play-based learning in early childhood education.

With this increased awareness regarding this topic, advocates and officials working together can help improve the current conditions. Please consider being a part of outdoor activities this summer and help children get active!