Programs encouraging teenagers to develop healthy eating habits have popped up all over the country in recent years: "Project EAT (Eating Among Teens"), "Eat, Think and Be Active!" and "The Power of Choice: Helping Youth Make Healthy Eating and Fitness Decisions," to name a few.
They don't seem to be helping. A five-year study by the University of Oklahoma's School of Public Health shows 80 percent of U.S. teens are eating their way to heart disease. Looking at more than 5,000 teens, the study found less than 1 percent of those surveyed ate a diet considered ideal for preventing cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association, which published the study, called the results "unacceptably high."
The Heart Association leadership calls for "broad social and cultural changes" as the only way to keep the United States from ever-increasing health care costs as today's teens become tomorrow's middle-aged adults.
The association has set a goal of reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020. It will be a stretch.
Just slowing the growth of obesity would be significant. But, so far, nobody has figured out how to get teenagers to exercise regularly -- even a brisk walk a day would do wonders -- and replace fast food, pizza and soft drinks with fruit, vegetables and whole grains, at least most of the time.
All the health insurance reform in the world won't bring down health care costs if America's teens -- not to mention their parents -- don't take better care of themselves.