We'd be surprised if your child was obese and you didn't know about it.

But it wouldn't shock us so much if you didn't understand that "chubbiness" isn't necessarily harmless "baby fat." And maybe you don't fully comprehend the consequences to your child's health and well-being if you don't do all you can to help him or her maintain a healthy weight.

That's why you should be grateful if others, especially those with expertise on the subject of weight, health and nutrition, step in to turn on the lights.

In Flagstaff, the public school system is doing just that. Beginning this fall the district will measure and weigh elementary-school children and send letters to parents whose children are overweight or heading that way.

The Associated Press reported that the district expects that about 50 percent of elementary-school students will be classified as overweight or getting there.

This is not a problem that's going to naturally run its course and then go away. Many families rely too heavily on fast food and on easy-to-prepare processed and frozen food products. Many children - and their parents - have lost or never discovered a taste for fresh vegetables and fruits.

That's why we'd like to see the Flagstaff schools' program expanded statewide. Obesity is a public-health problem of monumental proportions (and no, the pun isn't intended) in this state and nationwide.

Thirty-one percent of children between 10 and 17 are overweight or obese in Arizona, the Star reported in April. Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last three decades.

Obese children can develop serious health problems that were once risks primarily for adults: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, joint problems and more.

"These are serious, serious problems going on inside of these children now, and we have to do drastic things to make them better," pediatrician Nina Souders told the Flagstaff Unified School District board last week, according to the AP.

FUSD is working with Flagstaff Medical Center's Fit Kids staff and North Country HealthCare on the program. Parents will be offered recommendations on nutrition and exercise, and urged to consider a visit to a physician, district Superintendent Barbara Hickman told the AP.

She also said she expects some parents to be upset. "This is an emotional subject," she said. "It brings up difficult issues, and parents can be a little bit offended sometimes."

That would be too bad. This is a life-and-death matter, after all. We must all open our eyes, suck down our false pride and do what we can to help solve this problem.

Arizona Daily Star

Is your child obese?

Most federal guidelines consider children overweight if their body mass index is at the 85th percentile or higher for their age, sex and height. A child is considered obese at higher than the 95th percentile for BMI for children.

BMI calculator for children

www.blubberbuster.com/ height_weight.html

new program here

Pima County received $15.7 million in federal funds last month for a two-year program to help curb and prevent obesity.

The money will go to eight local teams that will conduct health and wellness education, including a campaign to get every Pima County student doing 60 minutes of physical activity a day and to offer healthier food choices in school cafeterias and vending machines.