Jay Perman is president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore. He’s also a pediatrician.
Naturally, Perman tends to get animated when he talks about childhood obesity. His university hosted a summit on that topic this week, and Tuesday state and university leaders announced the creation of a new Institute for a Healthiest Maryland. The institute will “focus on obesity prevention, tobacco cessation and the reduction of hypertension and high cholesterol, and will link local health departments and community leaders to proven interventions in health and wellness,” according to a news release.
In a telephone interview some days ago, Perman told me: “I think it could be argued that childhood obesity is our No. 1 public health problem. . . . It’s our genes, and it’s our behaviors, and it’s the environment in which [children are] being raised.”
Childhood obesity has doubled, tripled or quintupled over time, depending on how far back you look. Nearly one child in five is obese.
Perman wants his university to become a research center for pooling ideas and developing solutions to childhood obesity. Some of them are obvious: Getting more families to walk to school. Increasing the weekly allotment of physical education classes. Irrigating urban “food deserts.” Much is being done to combat obesity, but Perman said he thinks the attack lacks coordination.
“We’re all on it, but we’re all over each other,” he said.