Childhood obesity is affecting your community

by Cary Bailen — 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a community to shift the paradigm of childhood obesity.

It is easy to turn your back on childhood obesity, especially if you are not directly dealing with it in your home or family. However, the alarming rates at which this preventable disease is growing tell us that we need to stop and pay attention.

Childhood obesity doesn’t affect any one demographic — it affects all of them. Approximately 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, compared to just four percent a few decades ago, and another 15 percent are at risk for becoming overweight. Children who are obese also develop diseases normally only seen in adulthood.

If your body mass index (BMI) indicates that you are overweight or obese, you may be at risk for many conditions associated with obesity. These include: type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), certain cancers, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease and gallstones, fatty liver disease (also called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gout, and psychological and emotional effects.

The good news is that here in Arizona, many coalitions and businesses are working together (in some cases with grants) to bring awareness and shift the paradigm that currently exists so that things can be done to combat this epidemic.

You can make a difference for your children, or those in your community who are currently overweight or obese, by implementing the following ideas:

  • Find health education awareness plans that teach about food and nutrition.
  • Adapt healthy eating plans that reduce calories but do not rule out specific foods or food groups.
  • Increase regular physical activity and/or exercise instruction.
  • Learn about tips on healthy behavioral changes that consider your cultural needs.
  • Achieve a slow and steady weight loss of about three-quarters to two pounds, but not more than three pounds per week (weight loss may be faster at the start of a program).
  • Seek medical care if you are planning weight loss by following a special formula diet, such as a low-calorie diet.
  • Find a plan to maintain the weight loss.

What are some of the steps being taken in various communities to fight childhood obesity?

1. In March 2008, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) received a grant funded by Centers for the Disease Control-Division of Adolescent and School Health (CDC-DASH) to develop and implement a statewide coordinated school health program. (The administration of the AzCSHP is a collaborative effort between ADE and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). AzCSHP will focus on three areas: physical activity, nutrition and tobacco use prevention. To learn more, see: www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/CSHP/.)

2. Several coalitions have been formed that are specifically working on childhood obesity, such as Action for Healthy Kids, South Phoenix Healthy Kids Partnership and Arizona Public Health Association School Health Section.

3. There is currently a group which is helping the South Mountain area through organic community gardens. These gardens will not only bring nutritious foods to an area that does not have ready access to grocery stores or healthy eating, but they also will bring beautification and sustainability to the community.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to help our children and young adults become healthy, happy and successful. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a community to shift the paradigm of childhood obesity. It is not easy to change lifestyle habits that at the outset look as though they provide comfort (junk food and hours of video games), but they can be implemented — one step at a time. With awareness, communication and support, we can change the lives of many children.

How to help prevent childhood obesity

  • Get your kids out to play.
  • They don’t have to be athletes or into sports to be active. Make it fun for them to move their bodies.
  • Limit the family’s screen time. Video games, computers and TV are all easy ways to become sedentary and lethargic.
  • Become educated in health and nutrition. You don’t need to be a master, but learn how to read labels and understand the importance of whole food health.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Sit down at the table as a family when you eat and be as present to your food as you can.
  • Become aware of yours and your children’s emotions when you eat. It will help you all understand why you eat certain foods and when you eat what you do.

 

Cary Bailen is president of Kidz for Life, Inc. 602-751-0012, cary@kidzforlife.com or www.kidzforlife.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  4, Aug/Sept 2009.

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