As we continue to lead the fight against the childhood obesity epidemic, let’s take a moment to survey recent global developments in this field. Unfortunately, childhood obesity remains the number one health concern for American parents today. There are good reasons to be worried since, according to the American Heart Association, approximately one in three American children is considered overweight or obese. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in turn, offers an equally discouraging statistic: over the last 30 years, obesity has more than doubled among children and quadrupled among adolescents in the United States.
Aside from causing negative body image and low self-esteem in children, obesity is associated with a host of serious health problems that include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and elevated blood cholesterol levels. These problems are likely to persist into adulthood, carrying the likelihood of obesity-related diseases and shorter life expectancy. A recent article published in Medical Daily [link 1] suggests that households with obese kids are more likely to pay 60% more for health care since these kids are more likely to be admitted to hospitals than healthy children.
These alarming facts give us reasons for concern, but they also encourage us to make a positive difference in the lives of obese children. In particular, Children’s Obesity Fund seeks to combat the obesity epidemic through education and outreach programs designed to promote healthy lifestyle habits. We believe that prevention of obesity is most effective when it relies upon gradual and permanent changes in children’s physical activity and healthy eating habits conducive to maintaining an appropriate body weight.
Establishing support networks is essential to promoting positive lifestyle changes in obese children. CDC points out that children’s dietary and exercise habits are affected by numerous social institutions that include the media, schools, government agencies, healthcare providers, and faith-based institutions. While we seek to promote our message and foster public awareness of the obesity epidemic across these levels of society, we also emphasize that particularly supportive roles should be assumed by family members. Parents and caregivers ought to understand the importance of talking to children about their weight without belittling them or setting them apart from other kids. It often helps to plan family activities that incorporate physical exercise. Indeed, summertime may be the most opportune time of the year to take your children outdoors and engage them in games or athletic activities that are both fun and conducive to positive lifestyle changes. While a game of Frisbee is not likely to solve a global childhood obesity epidemic, it may be one of the first steps towards encouraging active lifestyle habits in your child.