April 5, 2010
Time to Act on Childhood Obesity …eat less, move more
by Jill Whitemore, RN, MedSurg Nurse Manager, Kane Community Hospital

Childhood obesity is a growing concern in America.  It has tripled over the past 30 years.  Approximately one out of three American children are either overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents.  It happens when a child is well above the normal weight for his/her age and height.  This can eventually lead to diabetes, increased blood pressure and increased cholesterol.

First Lady Michelle Obama has appealed to governors to join her in her initiative to reduce childhood obesity.  She states that childhood obesity is reflecting new habits and patterns in family life.  This includes eating processed or fast foods and the lack of physical exercise.

The First Lady’s plan to help childhood obesity is titled, “Let’s Move.”  It includes four goals:  Provide parents with the information and support they need to help children eat properly.  Ensure schools offer healthier foods.  Assist children with getting regular physical activity. Ensure healthier food is available in all areas and neighborhoods.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics, states that childhood obesity in preschoolers could be reduced by nearly 40% by following these guidelines:  Eat more evening meals as a family (more than 5 times/week).  Get enough sleep (at least 10.5 hours/night).

Limit time watching TV to less than 2 hours on weekdays.

Researchers state taking one of these actions would likely help to lower obesity in preschoolers.

To test and diagnose for childhood obesity, your child’s doctor looks at many factors such as: body mass index (BMI), body frame, muscle build, heath conditions, etc.  By addressing all these areas, this will help determine whether your child’s weight is a health concern.

Although there are some hormonal and genetic causes of childhood obesity, most excess weight is caused by eating too much and exercising too little.

To help prevent childhood obesity, children and their families need to eat healthier meals and snacks and do regular physical activity.

Water and green tea are good choices for healthier beverages.  Replacing pop or soda with water will cut out hundreds of calories per day.  Juice can have as many calories as soda, but has far more nutrients.  This presents a problem.  Look for juices that have 100% fruit juice.

Choose a piece of fruit, carrot or celery sticks as a healthier choice for a snack rather than cookies or potato chips.  Provide well-balanced meals for meal times.  To increase physical activity, take your child on a walk or bicycle ride.  Even some video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit, will provide your family with physical activity and also enjoyment.

Also, available on the second floor at KCH is a Wellness Program including a supervised fitness club located in the Cardiac Rehab Department.  For more information, call 837-4779.