Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Too Fat to Fight...Too Disordered for Duty

I just read a story on CNN about how obesity rates are limiting the number of Americans of enlistment age eligible to join the armed services. 

"Overall only 1 in 4 of our young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 is eligible for military service," says Rear ADM Jamie Barnett (retired). Obesity is one of the main reasons, he says. Others are failure to complete high school and having a criminal record. 

CNN reports, “The problem is potentially so serious commanders of all ranks who spearheaded the study describe it as a potential threat to national security.”

Military leaders believe it could become a “national security crisis. Really? This is the statistic than makes our leaders stand up and take notice?? This is the threat to our nation’s security?

How about 1 in 88 kids born in 2000 have autism? Who knows how many children born this year will be diagnosed…how about the staggering 1 in 6 American children diagnosed with a developmental disability—this according to a Centers for Disease Control study published in 2011 in Pediatrics that collected data over an 11 year period from 1997 to 2008.

And what’s more, Gary Goldstein, president and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore believes these numbers are underestimated—as if they aren’t bad enough as it is. 

I don’t see where any admirals or generals are concerned about the implications to future fighting forces because of the staggering numbers of autism cases and other neurological conditions. Where is the so-called gray beard panel to study the implications of 1 in 6 American children with neurological conditions that will likely make them ineligible for military service?

I don’t see any concern by legislators about U.S. economic security when the tidal wave of pediatric autism cases become adults with autism—who will need expensive social programs to provide for their care. Earmarks totaling a billion or so dollars each year will pale in comparison to the fiscal implications of a generation drawing on social programs, unable to become taxpayers themselves—much less fight in our nation’s wars.

Obesity is what gets our nation’s leaders to pay attention. Our children’s neurological health—eh, not so much. When will we pay as much attention to the neurological disorders plaguing our children that will affect this nation's military readiness and fiscal viability?

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