By Lisa Patterson
When I heard UNC Charlotte was partnering with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Levine Children’s Hospital to bring the movie premiere of “The Fat Boy Chronicles” to our campus, I was thrilled. We live in the wealthiest country in the world, and yet in the United States many children and adults don’t get the nutrients their bodies need from the foods they eat, and schools eliminate recess and gym classes from their schedules in response to budget cuts.
The factors that have contributed to childhood obesity have multiplied since the 1970s, when the childhood obesity rate in the United States began its rise from five percent to today’s rate of approximately 20 percent. In fact, this generation could be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
The physical effects of childhood obesity are well known, and are driving local and national efforts to address the issue. Last week, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity released a report that calls for returning the childhood obesity rate to five percent by 2030.
The psychological and social effects of childhood obesity are as detrimental to a child’s health and well-being as the physical. The most recent national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates that the largest percentage of those bullied attributed that bullying to body size.
The Charlotte region is taking a positive step to acknowledge the prevalence and effects of childhood obesity with the launch of “Charlotte, Get Your Move On!,” a community initiative modeled after “Let’s Move,” a nationwide campaign to tackle childhood obesity (www.letsmove.gov). The official launch of the program begins with the premiere of the movie “The Fat Boy Chronicles” at UNC Charlotte on June 2.
Based on the book by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan, “The Fat Boy Chronicles” follows 14-year-old Jimmy as he enters the freshman year of high school and chronicles his struggle with bullying and obesity. Thousands of CMS students are reading the book and preparing to discuss it in community forums, and a host of other activities are planned as part of the premiere/Get Your Move On initiative launch.
Through Jimmy’s eyes, audiences will learn what life is like for vulnerable teens facing daily self-doubt and discrimination. Perhaps Jimmy’s story will help put a human face on the statistics, medical terminology and policy recommendations that are so often used to communicate about this issue. After all, a little empathy could go a long way in mitigating the social and psychological effects of what is more than a physical problem.
Open seating tickets are available for reservation. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and are free. Tickets can be picked up at the Student Union Information Desk. The Student Union is open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. For more ticket information, call 704-687-4949 or 704-687-7100.