September 9, 2015

Childhood Obesity: Stats, Tips, Information and More

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.


Childhood obesity affects millions of Americans, leading them toward premature sickness and disease while creating a lifetime of health complications.

According to the American Heart Association, roughly one in three children/teens is overweight or obese, a metric which tripled during the 40-year stretch from 1971 to 2011. To help us understand the distinction between the terms “overweight” and “obese,” here’s a helpful definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure used to determine childhood overweight and obesity. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.

This in mind, it becomes clear that childhood obesity is something to take seriously. It’s a signal of poor health, and it often serves as a warning for health complications to come.

Being obese as a child or teen increases the risk of a variety of diseases and illness, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, joint and bone problems, and sleep apnea, among others.

With the new school year upon us just as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month kicks off, now is the perfect time to discuss healthy strategies for helping your child get healthy this school year and beyond. It starts with helping them understand their health, providing them with healthy meals, and encouraging an active lifestyle.

If you don’t pack your child’s lunch, it’s a good idea to start! You can control exactly what they eat, and since you understand your child’s tastes better than anyone else, you can get them nutrition they will actually enjoy on a daily basis.

It’s always a safe bet to pack plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but if you’re having trouble piecing together an entire lunch (or week of lunches), use these tips from the San Diego County News Center and 100 Days of Real Food to make their lunches healthier and tastier than ever before. With these tips, you’ll also get your child into the kitchen with you, creating a special bonding experience where you can talk about what you’re packing and why!

This will help them understand nutrition, and it will promote healthier choices on days you don’t pack lunches for them or when they’re away with friends, family, or school mates on a trip or a vacation.

Once you’ve improved their meals, encourage them to get involved in an after-school sport or activity. School sports such as soccer, basketball, football, baseball, swimming, and tennis provide excellent workouts disguised as fun and recreation, making them the perfect activity for children and teens looking to get healthy.

Our community is actively working to fight against childhood obesity, but it’s crucial that we start at home by establishing these healthy meals and routines.

Current AHF Mission Support Grantee Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) runs the Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI), a public-private partnership aimed at reducing and preventing childhood obesity through policy, systems, and environmental change. Follow this link to learn more about the COI.

For another great resource you can access at any time, check out this BMI Calculator from the CDC. Remember how, by definition, BMI relates to obesity? You can plug your child’s age, height, weight, and gender into that calculator at any time to see how they’re doing!

How are you promoting health in your children’s lives in September? I’d love to hear what you’re doing at home and in the community. Leave a comment, and we’ll discuss!

– Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director, Alliance Healthcare Foundation

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