Too many children are growing fatter -- so let's help prevent it

The sound of bullets flying, the loud voices of a boy shouting extremities to another child and hateful words screaming off the pages of social media sites are literally taking the lives, mentally and physically, of young people all over the world.

But there is another epidemic taking our kids that many wouldn’t even consider – that is, until they see the statistics.

It’s childhood obesity.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.”

 

SO HOW IS CHILDHOOD obesity measured? By body mass index, calculated in a formula using a person’s height and weight. “A child’s weight status is determined using an age- and sex-specific percentile for BMI rather than the BMI categories used for adults because children’s body composition varies as they age and varies between boys and girls,” according to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

I can include statistics about this chronic problem that will make your head spin, but I prefer to share ways we can tackle this problem. These are the same people who will prayerfully become adults one day and be our community and business leaders – educators, doctors, lawyers, nurses, artists, sports players, entrepreneurs, white- and blue-collar workers and so forth. I think we can all agree that we want our children to become healthy adults. It is important, however, that we adults do a better job in serving as positive role models for those following behind us.

I began my healthy lifestyle journey 16 months ago and shortly thereafter read an article in this newspaper that frankly knocked me off my feet. Georgia ranks No. 2 in childhood obesity. Wow!

As an advocate for youth and leadership, it just made sense to incorporate health and fitness with our Youth Leadership program. From America’s first lady to local fitness trainers providing opportunities for people to get fit, there definitely is a movement toward developing and living a healthy lifestyle. And I’m pretty excited about it.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and there will be activities and events all over the country to bring awareness to this growing problem. Here in Augusta, I’m pleased to share that we are planning a 5K Walk/Run at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Kroc Center. The event will be a family fun day designed to bring healthy information and education to everyone who attends. The day will include, in addition to the 5K walk/run, healthy fitness sessions; karate; Zumba; healthy cooking demonstrations; inflatables; a fire truck and firefighters; sheriff’s deputies; vendors; and so much more. Visit www.helenblockeradams.com for more information and a 5K walk/run registration form. I hope to see you there.

 

THE SUBJECT OF weight loss is one that we hear about daily. If you visit most bookstores, the No. 1 genre of literary work is diet and weight loss. Watch most cable television stations and there are new pills and potions, exercise videos and weight loss programs – all designed to make you spend money with the hopes of losing weight and developing a healthy lifestyle.

So what is the problem? Why are we still struggling with our weight? There probably is not enough ink to state all the reasons here, but if we reflect on it ourselves, we can identify our own personal reasons.

Experts have long told parents, and anyone who cares for a child, that healthy food and daily physical activity are key in preventing childhood obesity. The right food gives the right nutrition. Regular exercise shapes a healthier body. And adults should encourage this behavior so it can continue when the children become adults themselves.

CNBC featured a show called One Nation Overweight, and reported in 2012 that “there is an obesity plague in America that costs the nation as much as $147 billion – and an untold number of lives – every year. Nearly two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is triple what it was a generation ago. Together, they add up to a public health crisis that feeds a $60 billion industry of products, services, diets and foods designed to help people lose weight.”

In 21st-century America, excess weight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions. These conditions have bypassed smoking as the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the nation. This epidemic ties directly into chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

 

WE HAVE A serious but preventable problem. We all can work together to reduce this problem.

And it’s already starting. America received wonderful news Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new report on obesity rates in most U.S. states found that 18 states, including Georgia, showed lower obesity rates among low-income preschoolers. The drops were small, but their significance is huge.

I’ve heard that one can develop a habit if one does something 30 days straight. I would like to challenge you to use the month of September as a launching pad in developing a healthier lifestyle. Not only will you feel better, but you will serve as a positive role model for our youth.

 

(The writer is an entrepreneur, author, youth advocate and mental health advocate in Augusta.)

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