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MIND & BODY: September Is National Childhood Obesity Month

Childhood obesity is a major public health problem.

About one in six (17 percent) children in the U.S. has obesity.

With September being National Childhood Obesity Month, we can take a stand to educate the public about this serious health condition.

As such, there are a few simple ways to support children in our community to achieve the best healthy habits possible.

You may ask the question, “Why should I worry about it too much?”

Perhaps you have the attitude that my child will eventually grow out of his or her “baby fat” phase.

While in some cases, this may be true, it is also important to make sure that we, as adults, point children in the right direction early on in life.

Children with obesity are at higher risk for having health conditions and diseases later on in life.

Issues that occur in adults, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and Type 2 diabetes, could develop at earlier stages in life.

They also may have more risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol than normal weight children of the same age.

Children with obesity can be the subjects of bullies, being teased more in school and during extracurricular functions. They are also more likely to be withdrawn, depressed and have lower self-esteem.

Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.

Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancers.

Many factors can have an impact on childhood obesity:

— Too much time spent being inactive

— Lack of sleep.

— Lack of places to go in the community to get physical activity

— Eating out of boredom, not eating on a schedule or having snacks available at any time. In other words, easy access to inexpensive, high-calorie foods and sugary beverages.

— Lack of access to affordable, healthier foods

There are ways parents can help prevent obesity and support healthy growth in children:

— Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products

— Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt

— Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans for protein

— Encourage your family to drink plenty of water

— Limit sugary drinks

— Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

Be aware of your child’s growth. Continue to make well-child visits with his or her pediatrician, not just when your child is sick. Ask for a copy of your child’s growth chart.

Help children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Remember to put time limits on household screens such as, televisions, computers, phones and iPads. Limit the time children watch television, play video games or surf the web to no more than two hours per day.

Assign household chores to your child for developing good habits in the future.

Remember to not use the word “diet” with your child. It is important to learn ways of promoting healthy growth in children to prevent obesity.

Clark County Health Department provides programs for the entire family, including Cooper Clayton, WIC, HANDS, family planning, well-child care/immunizations, and home health care. For more information on services, call 744-4482 or visit www.clarkhealthdept.org.