CentaCare Clinic President
While controversial to some, Gov. Dayton took an important step recently to protect the safety of Minnesota children by canceling school due to the cold weather. That decision demonstrated the governor’s willingness to step up and take leadership for the health and welfare of our children.
He also could help to protect the health and safety of Minnesota’s children by including $6 million in his bonding proposal to fund the infrastructure needed to support Safe Routes to School. We need to encourage our children to be physically active every day. As a community, it’s important we provide our children safe opportunities to walk and bike. We can’t hold out an expectation of daily physical activity without providing safe alternatives for them to achieve that goal.
While the immediate safety of our children is crucial, funding Safe Routes to School in the bonding bill also has a long-term impact on our children’s health. With childhood obesity rates tripling since 1980, we must make daily physical activity part of the routine for a lifetime. Walking and bicycling to school offer those opportunities.
The health of Minnesota’s economy is another persuasive reason for Gov. Dayton to support Safe Routes to School in his bonding bill this year. The American Heart Association estimates if current obesity trends continue, total health-care costs attributable to obesity could exceed $861 billion by 2030, which would account for at least 16 percent of U.S. health expenditures. Obesity is replacing tobacco use as one of the key cost-drivers behind escalating health-care costs.
Gov. Dayton has the chance to make children’s health and safety a priority every day of the year by investing in Safe Routes to School.