(www.BlackDoctor.org) – Childhood obesity is still a major issue facing American children. 19 million American kids between the ages of 6 to 19 are currently obese. Black children make up for nearly 25 percent of that total number. The U.S. Surgeon General says that overweight kids have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults, and without good weight management, these children also risk Type II diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, some forms of cancer, joint pain and other health problems as they mature, potentially resulting in shorter life spans than their parents.
This week, First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with athletes, farmers, doctors, the food industry and media to take on the childhood obesity "epidemic" by launching a child health iniative called "Let's Move."
"We're determined to finally take on one of the most serious threats to their future, and that's the epidemic of childhood obesity in
America today," the first lady said at the launch of the campaign.
The initiative aims to rally families, communities, schools, urban planners, politicians and the media to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight. Obama pointed to the urgency of taking action today, at a time when there are already three times more obese children in the United States than 30 years ago.
Judith Palfrey, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, blamed the "alarming rise" on lack of exercise and a diet heavy in fat and sugar and light on fresh fruits and vegetables.
"The United States is in the unenviable position of having the highest number of obese children in the developed world," said Palfrey. Also, US medical costs associated with excessive weight soared from around 78 billion dollars a year in 1998 to around 147 billion dollars annually in 2006, a study released last year showed.
Will Allen, who has been a farmer for 50 years, said a major culprit was lack of access to good food.
"US inner cities, home to many of the nation's poor, are food deserts, where healthful food is rare and people live on cheaper
processed meals," Allen said.
Among steps to beat back obesity are an initiative to bring grocery stores that sell healthy food to inner cities, a rewards system
for schools that offer healthy meals and regular physical education classes, and local efforts to build safe areas where children can play.
"This initiative has to deal with talking to parents in a way that makes sense, eliminating the accessibility and affordability issues
in this country so that when we start talking about solutions, they are solutions that all families can access -- and not just the
lucky few," Obama said in an interview with public television after the launch.
The first lady has set a healthy example herself by planting a vegetable garden on the White House grounds, which local schoolchildren helped to cultivate. Also, her campaign has already received multiple backers, including , Sodexo, which serves more than 2.8 million school meals daily to children in the United States, and The Walt Disney Company, which has vowed to produces more television content with a healthy lifestyle theme.
Hours before his wife launched the initiative, President Barack Obama signed an executive memorandum setting up a task force that includes members of his cabinet and other officials, who have 90 days to draw up a master plan to combat childhood obesity.
What Do I Need To Do To Keep My Child Healthy?
Parents need a prevention plan to either help control their child’s obesity or, even better, prevent it from happening in the first
place. New research suggests that three relatively easy family behaviors can have a significant impact on the weight of preschool
1. Getting enough sleep
2. Eating dinner with the family
3. Limiting TV time
"Four-year-olds who regularly got around ten or eleven hours of sleep, ate a nutritious dinner with the family, and watched less than two hours of TV a day were 40 percent less likely to be obese," said the study's lead author, Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health at Ohio State University in Columbus.
"One of the things that's potentially useful about recommending these routines, if they're suggested as part of obesity-prevention
counseling, is that they may have other benefits, too. And, for pediatricians and other clinicians, we don't have easy, effective
treatments for obesity in children, so it's very important to try to prevent obesity," said Anderson. "We don't know if it's the
routines, or if it's the parenting associated with these routines or something else correlated with these routines, but we do know
these routines are associated with a lower incidence of obesity," said Anderson.
How Do I Make These Changes?
• If it seems impossible to institute all three of these behaviors, any one of them alone can have an effect – choose one that you think you’ll have the most success with, then consider trying another a little while later.
• If it's tough to eat together five times a week, shoot for at least three nights a week.
• Remove the televisions from children's bedrooms, which can help with limiting screen time and with getting enough sleep.
BDO (www.BlackDoctor.org) is the World’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans.