Big and small lifestyle changes to help fight childhood obesity


Little girl with apple

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Families, school officials and doctors invite people around the United States to take time in September to encourage overweight or obese children to make dietary and exercise changes big and small, but it shouldn’t be restricted to one month.

In the United States, one in three children are considered overweight or obese, according to Healthfinder.gov. Likewise, 7% of children ages 6 to 11 were obese in 1980, while the 2012 statistics for that same age group was 18%. That is quite serious because childhood obesity can lead to a range of long-term health problems, such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that obese children are more likely to be obese as adults, and therefore face life-long physical and mental health problems; they are more likely to face bullying and stigma; and childhood obesity hinges on many factors, such as sedentary activities, a lack of physical exercise, lack of adequate sleep, too much access to junk food and not enough access to nutritious foods.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which educates the public about preventative steps and changes — large and small — that we can make to help improve the health of the nation’s youth. In short, it will take the teamwork of parents, caregivers, doctors, the government, school officials, community organizations and others to provide children with the resources that they need to live healthy lives.

More to be done

President Barack Obama stated in a White House proclamation last month that while obesity in children ages 2 to 5 has fallen by 43%, there still is work that needs done to educate older children. First Lady Michelle Obama is undertaking such efforts with the “Let’s Move” campaign. She works with public and private sectors to make physical exercise and healthy food options available to children around the country.

Likewise, Obama, while encouraging parents and caregivers to focus on providing healthy meals at home, also tackles proper nutrition for children in need at school. One such effort is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010, which provides free breakfasts and lunches that meet particular nutritional requirements to 22,000 children in public schools.

The “We Can! Ways to Enhance Children’s Activities and Nutrition” campaign through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute provides resources for proper nutrition, physical activity and ways to reduce sedentary tasks. For food in particular, there is a call for portion control, a reduction of sugar and fat consumption, and examples of healthy eating plans.