September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( www.Healthfinder.gov), one in every three children in the United States is considered either overweight or obese. Obesity in childhood puts a child at great risk for health problems in later life, as well as an immediate risk for poor health during their youth. Without early intervention, children are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Left untreated ( worse yet, undiagnosed, these health issues can have a catastrophic impact on future health).
Simple steps and strategies initiated now can positively affect future health, not only for the child at risk, but for the family as a whole. Good healthy eating habits, improved activity levels, less time “plugged” into social media (cell phones, televisions, and computer time) and better sleep habits reduce the risk of illness and improve overall health and wellbeing.
On the home front, emphasis can be placed on families working together, playing together, and eating together. A unified front on all levels increases family “buy –in” and encourages participation in healthier behaviors. Home cooked meals, decreases in snacks and sugar drinks (soda), and dedicated family time for meals as well as outdoor activities (swimming, hiking, bike riding), all aid in the efforts to deliver a healthier version of the family as a whole.
At school, emphasis should be placed on healthier school menus, with increases in fruits and vegetables, fresh versus frozen foods, and water instead of soda. Activity/gym class should be encouraged to allow for stress reduction, muscle building, and improved circulation. Health education should be encouraged as well as the basics in nutrition. Knowledge is power.
As a community, everyone should be working towards improved health and wellness. Access to playgrounds, after school sports, family events, health fairs and other related ventures positively affect the community, not just an individual. Collaboration with local healthcare facilities offers another layer of health education available to the community.
Simple changes, as stated previously, can greatly impact one’s health. Do so now to ensure the health and well-being, not only for yourself, but for your children. Our future depends on it.