Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and increased 4 times in adolescents. Although strides are being made, still one in five children in America is obese. Despite the medical community steadily sounding the alert on this epidemic, childhood obesity remains a top children’s health threat, which almost always can be prevented.
Of the 23 million children who are obese or overweight, there is a marked disparity among children of color and those in low-income households. Specifically, the obesity rate for children stands at 22.4% for Hispanics, 20.2% for Blacks and 14.1% for Caucasians. Further, children living in poverty are 30% more likely to be obese than those who live in middle and upper income homes.
Obesity in children can have dangerous and/or lifelong negative effects. Being overweight or obese greatly increases the risk of affected children developing chronic illnesses that used to only be seen in adults over the age of 40 years of age. In fact, being obese makes nearly one-third of children in the United States more susceptible to the following conditions normally found in obese adults:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hypertension (or High Blood Pressure)
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart Disease and Stroke
- Bone, knee and other Joint problems
- Sleep apnea
- Psychological Problems, especially possible low self-esteem related issues from teasing and other experiences associated with stigma.
We Need a Strong Village because Obesity is Not “Just a Little Baby Fat”
Parents, health care providers, educators, civic leaders and organizations should consider overweight children a springboard to call attention to the need to prevent and control childhood obesity.
While the causes of childhood obesity vary, so too do the solutions. It doesn’t take fancy equipment or expensive electronics to get and keep kids at a healthy weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that this may be the first time in history that parents will have a greater life expectancy than their kids.
Following are several basic tips to help prevent childhood obesity.
- Cook at home and try planning your meals a week ahead using the Choose My Plate model to guide you through recommended portion sizes.
- Give up the soft drinks and make drinking water more fun by adding colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce the time children are just sitting by taking a walk with them or getting them involved at the local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club.
- Be an advocate at your child’s school for healthier meals, recess and afterschool active activities. Even those who do not have children in school should get involved to ensure the whole health of the community.
- Very importantly, become your child’s role model for health, and make staying healthy a family thing.
You’ll find various ways to fight children’s obesity by improving your health and tackling Health Power’s “Big Four” : Obesity, Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart Disease.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power! ®