Be the Change: Adults Must Set Example to Reduce Child Obesity

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The CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently reported that the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off and even declined in some cities, counties and states. For black youth, other children of color and in poor communities, however, progress to reduce obesity rates has been more limited.

In 2007, the Foundation announced it would invest $500 million over five years to help end obesity, particularly in traditionally underserved communities that are affected largely by less access to full grocery stores and farmers’ markets with fresh, healthy options, safe places for children to play and exercise, as well as a proliferation of fast food restaurants and advertising that steer children to spend money on junk food.

The Foundation, in its latest assessment, found “The places that are reporting declines have taken their own unique approaches to addressing childhood obesity. Many of these places have made broad, sweeping changes to make healthy foods available in schools and communities and integrate physical activity into people’s lives.”

California, Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia, the report said, have registered statewide declines in childhood obesity rates. Significant changes have also been found in Philadelphia and New York City.

“Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, which makes achieving or maintaining a healthy weight early in life vitally important,” Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview with The Sport Digest.

Rodgers said an NIH study confirmed earlier studies that suggest “we may need to approach weight management and obesity prevention differently in youth than in adults.”

President Barack Obama has proclaimed September National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and Rodgers, who is perhaps best known for his Healthy Moments public service announcements on radio and Twitter @HealthyMoments, said now that children are back in school, it is a great time to think about how to become role models and help kids make choices that will prevent overweight and obesity.

Rodgers said research has shown:

• Healthy eating, at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and about 9 -11 hours of sleep a night are essential for children’s development and have been linked to better performance in school. Furthermore, chronic lack of sleep has been linked in studies to obesity.

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