State Health Kicks Off 2nd Annual Statewide Turnoff Week During April 21-27 to Join National Effort

Less screen time and more physical activity will lead to a healthier lifestyle

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 21, 2008) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today kicked off the second annual Turnoff Week from April 21-27, that coincides with the National Turnoff Week to focus attention on the need for people to spend less time with their TVs and electronic media and more time being physically active.

"Obesity is at epidemic proportions in New York and in the United States," said Commissioner Daines. "The goal of the Turnoff Week is to bring home the message to children and their families that more exercise and less time spent in front of the TV and computer means healthier New Yorkers."

New York is one of 12 states to join National Turnoff Week with the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness, a national non-profit group committed to people living healthier lives by taking control of the electronic media in their lives. This year, National Turnoff Week has expanded its focus to include other electronic media such as DVDs, video games and computers.

According to 2007 Nielsen data, the average American home has the television on for more than eight hours every day (an hour more than just a decade ago), and the average American watches 4 hours and 34 minutes of television each day. Preschoolers' risk of being overweight increases by 6 percent for every hour of television watched per day. If a child had a TV in his or her bedroom, the odds of being overweight increased by an additional 31 percent for every hour watched.

To gear up for this week, nearly 2,000 representatives from schools, libraries and community organizations statewide participated in state Health Department training on ways to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary routines. Turnoff Week organizer kits, posters, plans and activities were provided. Activities such as classes, reading groups, board games for children, and outdoor walks and scavenger hunts are being offered.

One Turnoff participant, the Colonie Youth Center, a non-profit community organization serving children and families in Albany County, will hold a TV Turnoff ceremony in the main lobby of the Ciccotti Family Recreation Center on April 21 at 5 p.m.

"Anything we can do to reverse our sedentary lifestyle will have tremendous long-term health benefits," said Commissioner Daines. "Research shows that exposing children to television advertisements for foods that are high in fats, sugar, and calories can increase the risk of obesity."

Previous Turnoff initiatives have successfully influenced a number of children to change their attitudes and behaviors. Last year more than 39,000 individuals attended Turnoff Week events held throughout the Department of Health's Eat Well Play Hard Community grant projects. A total of 315 children from the North Syracuse Early Education Program participated and reduced their screen time at home. The total weekly viewing time prior to Turnoff Week was approximately 188 hours. During Turnoff Week, the total viewing time was reduced to approximately 22 hours, an 89 percent reduction in total screen time.

Stephanie Annette, a New York City high school student and 2007 Turnoff Week essay contest winner, shared her observation that "Time is too precious to waste and you can never replace it once it is gone. The average American wastes almost 8 hours per day on recreational screen-time, it is no wonder that America is the most overweight country in the world; we are stuck with our screens. We must not be so solitary and so sedentary."

To learn more about Obesity Prevention and National Turnoff Week, visit the state Health Department website at www.nyhealth.gov or the Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness Web site at www.screentime.org. For more information about preventing childhood obesity or family wellness programs visit: http://www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/obesity/