Obesity is the leading medical reason why nearly three-quarters of young Kentuckians are not eligible to join the armed forces.
A report from the group Mission: Readiness is based on U.S. Defense Department data, and shows nearly 33 percent of Kentucky teens are overweight or obese.
Retired U.S. Marine Major General Jerry Humble of Russellville is a member of the group, and says other factors disqualifying young Kentuckians from military service are criminal records and a lack of high school diploma.
“We’re really worried about the future—the next 10 to 12 years—of our military armed forces. And the world isn’t becoming a kinder, gentler place, either,” Humble said.
The report, entitled Retreat Is Not An Option for Kentucky, also finds:
* 78 percent of Kentucky adolescents do not get the recommended hour of daily exercise.
*The military currently spends $1.5 billion annually on obesity-related medical costs and to replace those discharged because they are physically unfit.
Humble and other members of Mission Readiness are calling on Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. The bill requires the U.S. Agriculture Department to update nutrition standards for all food served and sold in public schools.
“Too many young people today have unhealthy eating and exercise habits,” Humble said. “This problem threatens to diminish our future military strength and put our national security at risk.”