Over the past several decades, we have witnessed childhood obesity grow to epidemic proportions. More than 23 million children and teenagers (31.8 percent), ages two to 19, are obese or overweight. That’s roughly one child in every three. Some groups are disproportionately affected.
These same children have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese as adults, and more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese as an adult. As a result, they are more at risk for cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, psychological problems, bullying and more. These increasing health risks are also following these individuals into adulthood.
The financial impact is about $14 billion per year in direct health care costs alone. Americans spend approximately nine percent of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses. Additionally, there are psychosocial consequences that can hinder academic and social functioning that persist into adulthood.
September 2010 was the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, established by presidential and congressional proclamations. To read President Obama’s proclamation for 2011, follow this link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/01/presidential-proclamation-national-childhood-obesity-awareness-month.
The effort begins at home. There are opportunities every day to change these trends. Parents have enormous influence over their children’s lifestyles by the example they set and the decisions they make. By modeling healthy eating and physically active lifestyles, we can set our children on the road to a lifetime of good habits.
As individuals, we hope you will take steps within your family, in your neighborhood, and throughout your community to help reverse the rise of childhood obesity. Every person in the US can be an important part of Childhood Obesity Awareness month by taking small steps that add up to a big difference. Eating more balanced meals and snacks, engaging in physical activity more regularly, and sharing your personal plan and commitment with friends and family are all great ways to help make a difference.
All children deserve a healthy start in life; it’s our responsibility to make that possible!
What can we do to help our children?
- National Dairy Council and the NFL have produced a school wellness program, Fuel Up to Play 60,which encourages healthy eating and getting 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Have your children tell you what they have learned at school and incorporate those healthy foods and habits at home.
- Encourage them to become active. Help them find physical activities that they enjoy doing, such as biking, roller skating, soccer, etc. Plan activities such as taking family walks after dinner, or going on a bike ride together. Get off the couch, turn off the computer and TV and GET PHYSICAL!
- Check out the USDA MyPlate website at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/. Strive to make HALF your plate fruits and veggies and the other HALF grains and proteins (meats, nuts, beans). DAIRY is depicted as a glass of milk and try to make your dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt) be fat-free or reduced fat (1%).
- Set a good example. If you have an overweight/obese issue, you need to decide to become healthy too. Be a role model and leader for your children.
- Visit http://healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org/ to learn about securing a healthy future for our nation’s children.