In 2036, Texas turns 200. Are we ready for what’s next?
Success in Texas Depends on Youth Health A new decade brings a new start, and as Texans look toward the future, it’s clear we must look at the health and education of our children. Texas will add 10 million more people by our state’s bicentennial in 2036, with a significant portion of them in North Texas. To support 38 million Texans, we’ll need to create up to 8 million more jobs, and whether our children can fill those jobs will largely depend on their health and education.
Unfortunately, the trends are not good. In Texas, our rate of 10 to 17 year olds who are obese is 16%, which is higher than 30 other states. This condition is an important predictor of health, as it is associated with lifetime risks for poor health outcomes such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and heart disease. More than 2.5 million Texas children do not eat any vegetables on a given school day, and Texas children are not exercising. Nearly 78% do not meet federally recommended activity guidelines. These figures do not bode well for our future. Texas already has some of the highest rates of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular deaths among adults in the country. Preventing those diseases begins in childhood. It’s critical not to overlook how interconnected health and education are. Obesity in childhood is linked to poorer educational outcomes including lower GPA, lower reading and math scores, and more school absences. Late last year, the Nation’s Report Card showed that 7 out of 10 fourth graders in Texas cannot read at grade level.
Ensuring children are healthy and in school each day is one of the best ways to prepare them to learn. Texas needs a comprehensive, integrated approach to children’s health that goes beyond the doctor’s office and takes place in the community. We know interventions delivered at school can work. Today, over 30 million kids eat a healthy lunch every day because of the National School Lunch Program, including 3.3 million kids in Texas. It’s an amazingly cost-effective way to improve education. The bottom line is that good nutrition helps kids succeed at learning. It’s important that we find other ways to lead toward better achieving, healthier kids. For instance, today, there is no requirement for health class in Texas high schools or daily recess in Texas elementary schools. As we prepare for the future, we need business, community, health and education leaders to better use their platforms to engage the public in an open, fact-based debate on how we can improve health and education outcomes for our children. This will require data collection, collaboration, open lines of communication and debate over best practices and approaches. We have Texas-sized health challenges looming. It’s going to take creative and comprehensive thinking to overcome them. Margaret Spellings is the CEO of Texas 2036 and the former U.S. Secretary of Education.
Texas 2036, President and CEO
10 MILLION MORE TEXANS WILL CALL TEXAS HOME BY 2036
16% OBESITY AMONG TEXAS TEENS AGES 10-17
TEXAS CHILDREN DO NOT EAT ANY VEGETABLES ON A GIVEN SCHOOL DAY
OF TEXAS STUDENTS DO NOT MEET THE RECOMMENDED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY GUIDELINES
Ensuring children are healthy and in school each day is one of the best ways to prepare them to learn.