While the thought of more than 10,000 elementary school-aged children moving at the same time might seem a tad foreboding, the March 24 simultaneous exercise event in 26 Maryland schools is being carefully orchestrated and is just what the doctor ordered – for 15 minutes, that is.

The event is simply the way the American Diabetes Association, in partnership with Playworks and Baltimore City Public Schools, has chosen to remind the community that everyone needs to get moving, children included, to stave off the epidemic of obesity that has plunged one in four African-American children into type II diabetes, a category formerly reserved for overweight adults.

Today, almost one in every three children in the nation is overweight or obese. The number rises to 40 percent in African-American and Hispanic communities, according to the Let’s Move Campaign website.

“Stop Diabetes” is both the intent and the mantra of the ADA’s 2011 campaign to begin March 22 with a week of activities starting with a rally in Annapolis and a meeting to encourage Maryland legislators to do their part in mandating, as much as possible, healthier habits in state schools.

“Our intent is to raise the level of awareness about the seriousness of diabetes in our community and the need to look at systems and policies that can improve the lives of those living with diabetes and also to prevent diabetes,” said Shawn McIntosh, ADA director of programs and advocacy.

“Our specific bill is HB 168, which has been stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee for six years now, and we need to get it out of committee so the entire House can vote on it.”

House Bill 168 was introduced six years ago by former NFL player and current state delegate, Jay Walker (D-Dist. 26), to make a place in every Maryland school for physical education, much of which succumbed to ongoing budget woes. “Many parents do not realize that PE was taken out of many school systems. Parents often say we had PE every day,” said Walker, who represents Prince George’s County. “

“Well in some school systems students participate in PE only once a week. This is unacceptable and we are doing a tremendous disservice to our kids.“

The bill requires “that a public school student in elementary school be provided a daily program of physical activity totaling at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, including at least 90 minutes of physical education; that the program of physical activity for a specified category of student be consistent with a specified plan for the student; public elementary schools to designate a specified group to plan and coordinate specified activities,” according to the legislative website synopsis.

“One in every three children born after 2000 will develop diabetes,” McIntosh said. “We need people to get involved, to join the Stop Diabetes movement – they can take the risk test on our website, attend workshops and take control of their own lifestyle behavior changes.”

She said people can also volunteer to help ADA spread the word.

The week of activities abounds with opportunities for health information on diabetes and other conditions, instruction on healthy cooking, a workout with Ravens fitness trainer Monte Sanders and a Spin-A-Thon at Gold’s Gym.

For more information on Stop Diabetes Rally Week activities visit https://sites.google.com/site/stopdiabetesmaryland or to take the risk test, visit diabetes.org or call the Baltimore office at 410-265-0075.