The percentage of children with obesity in the US has more than tripled since the 1970s. Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term impacts on social, physical and emotional health. Children with obesity are at higher risk of developing chronic health conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems and type 2 diabetes. Children with obesity get bullied and teased by their classmates, experience social isolation, depression, and low self-esteem. Children who are overweight are at higher risk of entering adulthood with too much weight.
Why are these children overweight & obese? The factors that contribute to childhood obesity include:
- Eating and physical activity levels
- Environmental factors
- Social & individual psychology
How can HCPs help these overweight children?
Changes in the environments where children spend their time – like homes, schools, and community settings can help children achieve and maintain a healthy weight by making it easier to eat more nutritious foods, cut out the fats and sugars, get some physical activity each day, watch less television and spend less time on computer. This is a combined effort of parents, healthcare providers and communities.
As an HCP, you can help facilitate the prevention of childhood obesity by doing the following:
- Identify and track patients at risk by family history, birth weight, socio-economic, ethnic, cultural, psychological and environmental factors.
- Calculate and plot BMI once a year for all children/adolescents.
- Use change in BMI to identify the rate of excessive weight gain compared to linear growth.
- Encourage support of breast feeding
- Encourage parents to promote healthy lifestyle at home by choosing nutritious foods over fast food choices. Young children mimic adult behaviors in the home.
- Talk to the child about what it means to be healthy and how to make healthy decisions.
- Promote physical activity – at least an hour per day.
- Limit TV and computer time.
- Recognize changes in obesity related risk factors like hypertension, dyslipidemia, sleep apnea.
There are many ways children can live healthier lives and lose excess weight. Look around, many communities have wonderful parks, walking trails, tennis courts, swimming pools, hiking areas, playgrounds and more. The goal is to give guidance in terms of nutrition choices and physical activity while eliminating screen time.
For more guidance on how to facilitate a weight management program for pediatrics, download our free webinar, HealthWise Pediatric Weight Management Plan now.