Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are you aware that childhood obesity is affecting your community?

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 in which this preventable disease is growing tells 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 4 percent a few decades ago, and another 15 percent are at risk for being overweight. Childhood obesity is a growing concern in today's world. A frightening number of children are obese and developing diseases normally seen in adulthood.

Weighing too much may increase your risk for developing many health problems. If your
body mass index (BMI) indicates that you are overweight or obese, you may be at risk for many of obesity's health effects. These include:

Type 2 diabetes
Heart disease
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
Certain cancers
Sleep apnea
Gallbladder disease and gallstones
Fatty liver disease (also called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Psychological and emotional effects.

The good news is there are things that can be and are being done to combat this epidemic. Here in Arizona there many coalitions, grants and businesses working together to bring awareness and shift the paradigm that currently exists.

How can you help prevent childhood obesity?

  • Get out and play. You don’t have to be an athlete or into sports to get out and be active.
  • Limit your screen time. Video games, computers, and TV are all easy ways to become sedentary and lethargic. This is also an easy time to eat more than you anticipated.
  • Become educated in health and nutrition. You don’t need to be a master, but try to learn how to read labels, and understand the importance of whole food health.
  • Eat MORE fruits and veggies.
  • Try to sit down when you eat and be as present to your food as you can.
  • Become aware of your emotions when you eat. It will help to understand why and when you eat what you do.

    What can you do for your children or those in your community that are currently overweight or obese?
  • Health education awareness that teaches you about food and nutrition
  • Healthy eating plans that reduce calories but do not rule out specific foods or food groups
  • Regular physical activity and/or exercise instruction
  • Tips on healthy behavioral changes that also consider your cultural needs
  • Slow and steady weight loss of about ¾ to 2 pounds per week and not more than 3 pounds per week (weight loss may be faster at the start of a program)
  • Medical care if you are planning to lose weight by following a special formula diet, such as a low-calorie diet
  • A plan to keep the weight off after you have lost it.

    What are some of the things being done in various communities to fight childhood obesity?
  • In March 2008 the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) received a grant funded by the 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 be focusing on three areas: Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Tobacco Use Prevention. To learn more about Coordinated School Health http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/CSHP/
  • There are several coalitions that are specifically working on childhood obesity such as Action for health Kids, South Phoenix Health Kids Partnership, Arizona Public Health Association School Health Section, etc.
  • There is currently an active group that is specifically helping the South Mountain area through organic community gardens. These gardens will not only bring healthy foods to an area that does not have readily access to grocery stores or healthy eating, but also 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. I believe it takes a community to shift the paradigm of childhood obesity. It isn’t easy to change things of comfort but it can be done. One step at a time, with the awareness, communication, and support we can change the lives of many children.

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