The CDC shared that about 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States have obesity. Certain groups of children are more affected than others. National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month provides a chance for all of us to learn more about this serious health condition. While there is no simple solution, there are many ways communities can support children with their journey to good health.
Childhood Obesity Is a Major Public Health Problem
- Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone, and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal-weight peers.
- Children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their normal-weight peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.
- Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity 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.
Childhood Obesity Is Influenced by Many Factors
Many factors can have an impact on childhood obesity, including eating and physical activity behaviors, genetics, metabolism, family and home environment, and community and social factors. For some children and families, obesity may be influenced by the following:
- too much time spent being inactive
- lack of sleep
- lack of places to go in the community to get physical activity
- easy access to inexpensive, high-calorie foods and sugary beverages
- lack of access to affordable, healthier foods
Parents and Caregivers Can Help Prevent Obesity and Support Healthy Growth
- Be aware of your child’s growth. Learn how obesity is measured in children, and use CDC’s Child and Teen BMI Calculator to screen your child for potential weight issues.
- Provide nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetablesexternal icon in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
- Make sure drinking water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks and limit juice intake.
- Help children get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Regular physical activity can have immediate health benefits like better sleep, better academic achievement, and reduced feelings of anxiety and stress. Look here for age-appropriate activities your child can do.
- Make sure your child has healthy sleep habits. Sleep helps improve attention and reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and even obesity later in life. Get your child to bed at the same time each day, including the weekends; remove electronic devices from the bedroom; and keep their bedroom dark and cool. Your child needs at least 8 hours of sleep, may be more depending on age. Find out how much sleep your child needs.
- Be a role model! Eat healthy meals and snacks, and get the right amount of physical activity every day.
- Learn what you can do to help shape a healthy school environment.
Addressing Obesity Can Start in the Home, but Also Requires the Support of Providers and Communities
We can all take part in the effort to encourage children to be more physically active and eat a healthy diet.
State and local health departments, businesses, and community groups can:
- Ensure that neighborhoods have low-cost physical activity opportunities such as parks, trails, and community centers.
- Offer easy access to safe, free drinking water and healthy, affordable food options.
Health Care Providers can:
- Measure children’s weight, height, and body mass index routinely.
- Connect or refer families to breastfeeding support services, nutrition education, or childhood healthy weight programs as needed.
Early Care and Education centers and schools can:
- Adopt policies and practices that support healthy eating, regular physical activity, and limited screen time.
- Provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice these behaviors.
Working together, we all have a role in making healthier foods, beverages, and physical activity the easy choice for children and adolescents to help prevent childhood obesity.