Healthy Habits for a Lifetime of Good Health
September is national childhood obesity month. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States has obesity. Certain groups of children are more affected than others. National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month provides a chance for all of us to learn more about this serious health condition. While there is no simple solution, there are many ways communities can support children with their journey to good health.
Childhood Obesity Is a Major Public Health Problem
- Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers.
- Children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.
- Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems. Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancers.
Childhood Obesity Is Influenced by Many Factors
Many factors can have an impact on childhood obesity, including eating and physical activity behaviors, genetics, metabolism, family and home environment, and community and social factors. For some children and families, obesity may be influenced by the following:
- too much time spent being inactive
- lack of sleep
- lack of places to go in the community to get physical activity
- easy access to inexpensive, high calorie foods and sugary beverages
- lack of access to affordable, healthier foods
There Are Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Obesity and Support Healthy Growth in Children
To help ensure that children have a healthy weight, energy balance is important. There are many things parents can do to help their children achieve a healthy weight and maintain it.
- Be aware of your child’s growth. Learn how obesity is measured in children, and use CDC’s Child and Teen BMI Calculator to screen your child for potential weight issues.
- Provide nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetablesExternal in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
- Make sure drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary beverages and limit juice intake.
- Help children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Find age appropriate activities here.
- Be a role model! Eat healthy meals and snacks, and get the right amount of physical activity every day.
- Learn what you can do to help shape a healthy school environment. Programs like Play On! support fun physical activities on the playground to support healthy habits. Incorporating a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) is also an excellent way for schools to provide the physical activity students need.
Addressing Obesity Can Start in the Home, but Also Requires the Support of Providers and Communities
We can all take part in the effort to encourage children to be more physically active and eat a healthy diet.
State and local health departments, businesses, and community groups can:
- Ensure that neighborhoods have low-cost physical activity opportunities such as parks, trails, and community centers.
- Offer easy access to safe, free drinking water and healthy, affordable food options.
Health Care Providers can:
- Measure children’s weight, height and body mass index routinely.
- Connect or refer families to breastfeeding support services, nutrition education, or childhood healthy weight programs as needed.
Early Care and Education centers and schools can:
- Adopt policies and practices that support healthy eating, regular physical activity, and limited screen time.
- Provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice these behaviors.
Working together, we all have a role in making healthier foods, beverages, and physical activity the easy choice for children and adolescents to help prevent childhood obesity. Follow us on social media (@gametimeplay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) throughout the month of September for ideas on how to increase physical activity for children and support healthy habits that last a lifetime.