Did you know that more than 23 million children and teenagers in the U.S. are obese or overweight? And when you hone in on the stats in the African-American community, they are just as alarming. September, which is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, is the perfect time to address this issue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 percent of African-American girls ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 19 percent of African-American boys in the same age group are overweight. In terms of Black teenagers, the numbers are almost the same. In terms of obesity, 22.4 percent of African-American children ages 6 to 17 are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30.
In a 2010 Center for American Progress report, the rate of obese and overweight African-American and Latino young people ages 2-19 is around 40 percent, while it’s less than 30 percent among their white counterparts. With these high rates come higher incidents of “adult” diseases such as Type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease.
So what is fueling this epidemic among teens and children, especially in our communities?
Here are some of the main culprits:
— Food instability and poverty: Not having access to healthy foods in your neighborhoods and having to rely on corner stores and bodegas for the majority of your food.
— Sedentary lives: Kids are not as active as they used to be. Thanks to gym classes being cut out of several school programs and all the media — Internet, television, video games — being consumed on a daily basis, kids are spending more time sitting down than running around. But it’s also important to point out that for some kids, going outside to run and play isn’t an option. Either their neighborhood isn’t safe or there aren’t any green spaces or parks.
— Our love for fatty foods: While there are a lot of systematic issues that stand in the way of people not having access to healthy food, our attitudes toward food and what we like to eat is also part of the problem. It’s not a secret that we love fatty foods, fast food and food with high fat content. McDonalds, super-sized sodas, Cheetos and even fatty school lunches have replaced fruits and vegetables for young people.
So what can we do about it?
When it comes to childhood obesity, the key is for parents to lead by example. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers up these tips:
— Make your favorite dishes healthier: For example, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese are my favorites, but there are ways to make them healthier. Instead of frying it, bake the chicken in a batter. And opt for low-fat cheese for your macaroni.
— Introduce healthier snacks: Limit high sugar foods and opt for low-sugar, low-fat treats, such as fruits, veggies and hummus. Say no to soda as much as possible and replace it with water.
— Turn off the tube and get moving: Limit the amount of television and video games to two hours a day. Encourage children and teens to engage in physical activity for an hour a day. This starts with you, too. If you start working out, your kids will, too.
Learn more about what you can do to prevent childhood obesity here.
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