Friday, September 25, 2009

Addressing the Issue of Obesity

I have been thinking about the field of obesity prevention, especially with regard to children. I began my career as a child abuse and neglect investigator some years ago and it dawned on me this week that there is a commonality here. I don't necessarily mean that the parents of overweight and obese children are mistreating them (though in some ways they may be) but that the interventions or treatments must involve the same systems.

When addressing abuse and neglect especially when moving into the treatment of substantiated cases, we work to protect the children, educate the parents and provide opportunity for new skills to emerge and behavior to change. To do this, we rely heavily on the school system for access, support and protection. The community is another protector and watchdog for child abuse prevention.

Do you see where I am going with this? Children are at great risk when they are overweight. Research supports that they will carry this extra weight into adult hood and by so doing, have adverse outcomes related to weight.
These outcomes, sometimes beginning in childhood, are hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, hyperlipidemia and so much more. Being overweight also limits ones physical activity or mobility and can be mood altering.

In order to significantly impact this issue, parents have to be educated on nutrition. Schools have to supplement this with classroom and lunchroom interventions and communities should support it all with healthy options at restaurants and access to recreational facilities and walkable and cyclable roads. It would not hurt to throw in a key celebrity or community figure to role model the use of these supportive programs.

Parental education and skill building is essential. I work with people everyday who think that they are doing the right things when in fact they are making disease promoting mistakes. Many inadvertently, give children very high amounts of sugar and fat in foods and beverages. If we only removed sweetened beverages and whole milk, we would save hundreds of calories from each child's day. Another big issue is cooking and a third is access. Vegetables are meant to be eaten with abandon, but not if they are fried or cooked in butter and heavy sauces. Processed foods are often if not always cheaper than fresh ones and pack many calories into small serving sizes.

If you are reading this blog you may already know this and even share my desperation. I don't have any good handouts from the Volumetrics program I love, but my second favorite is the We Can program and materials from the National Heart Blood Lung Institute are available. You can see them here and can print and share them. You may even bring them to work:)

Happy Weekend!

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