By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
NBA Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins is in Buffalo this week, not so much to talk about basketball, but about health.
The message he is sharing is designed specifically to make points with two groups – kids and those like him who have Type 2 diabetes – but his words hold true for everybody.
A proper diet and exercise are vital, Wilkins told reporters before meeting with students from several Buffalo public schools this morning during the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge 2013-14 kick-off event at the Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center.
Why does he think diabetes has become a growing disease among children?
“We’ve gotten lazy,” he told me, “but that’s not the kids’ fault, it’s the parents’ fault. We let our kids sit in the house and play videos all day, get on social media, and they don’t get enough physical activity outside.”
Wilkins, 53, vice president of the Atlanta Hawks, the team he led through much of his NBA career, understands the temptation of a sedentary life. He weighed 273 pounds when he learned he had diabetes about 14 years ago, about a year after he retired.
He lost nearly 40 pounds, and closed in on his average playing weight, in the months after changing his diet.
“I’m close to my playing weight now,” he said, but “I’m not saying I’m coming back.”
Obesity has become the top health concern across the country, according to a report from the National Institute of Health.
“During the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents,” Independent Health officials said in a news release. “The rates for childhood obesity in Western New York are also alarming.”
Here are statistics the regional health insurer shared from the state of Department of Health from 2008-2010 breaking down the percentage of students in pre-K through 10th grade in the region who are considered overweight and obese:
• Allegany County – 21.7 percent
• Cattaraugus County – 33.6 percent
• Chautauqua County – 29.2 percent
• Erie County – 27.7 percent
• Genesee County – 29.1 percent
• Niagara County – 33.6 percent
• Orleans County – 33 percent
• Wyoming County – 34.6 percent
These children and adolescents likely will be obese as adults, too, and more at risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, Independent Health officials said.
They also are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, a condition almost unheard of in children a generation ago.
“The Fitness for Kids Challenge kick-off really emphasized to the children the importance of fitness and nutrition in preventing illness and diseases like diabetes,” Dr. Michael W. Cropp, Independent Health president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “We’re very appreciative of Dominique coming to Buffalo for this event and supporting our efforts in instilling healthy habits and behaviors in our area’s youth.”
Go to fitnessforkidschallenge.com or call the Independent Health Foundation at 635-4959 to learn ways to stay active, eat right, find healthy recipes and register a school.
Read more about Wilkins and his healthier diet this weekend at the Refresh Buffalo Blog and in WNY Refresh on Saturday in the Buffalo News.