The Parent’s Role in Combating Childhood Obesity

Statistics show that as many as twenty-five percent of children and teens today are obese. But how does a parent know when their child is truly obese? All children gain weight as they grow older. Extra pounds – more than their body needs to support their growth and development – can become a concern.

When a child or teen is above the accepted weight range for their height and age, parents must take note. In recent years, several “adult” diseases have begun to show in children on a more regular basis, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic website, a parent’s role is to involve the entire family in better nutrition and more activity.

In “The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity” by Ana C. Lindsay, Katarina M. Sussner, Juhee Kim, and Steven Gortmaker, it is argued that “interventions aimed at preventing childhood overweight and obesity should involve parents as important forces for change in their children’s behaviors.” A story from ABC News offers these practical tips for parents:

Create a family activity that involves fitness, such as walks, bike rides, or rollerblading.

Find other families in your neighborhood and schedule time for basketball, hide and seek, and other active games.

Give kids active chores around the house — vacuum, wash the car, or mow the lawn.

Limit TV privileges.

Plan a healthy diet for the entire family.

Avoid using food as a reward for good behavior or withholding a meal as punishment.

Eat meals together and pay attention to portion size.

Choose fruits, vegetables, and yogurt as snacks and avoid items high in fat, sugar, and calories.

If a child is not hungry, avoid forcing child to eat.

Parents can and must take a positive role in ensuring every opportunity for a healthy childhood for children.


Ready Kids

The Ready Kids website was developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help teachers and parents prepare kids to be ready for any situation. Kids are encouraged to plan and practice. The Emergency Preparednes Tips website discusses what your child should know – including name, phone number, address, emergency contact information, meeting sites, important facts all children should know, as well as the value of role playing.

Safe Routes for Kids

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a national and international movement to create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to bicycle and walk to and from schools. The program has been designed to reverse the decline in children walking and bicycling to schools. Safe Routes to School can also play a critical role in reversing the alarming nationwide trend toward childhood obesity and inactivity.

In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school, with approximately 87% of children living within one mile of school walking or bicycling. Today, fewer than 15% of schoolchildren walk or bicycle to school.

As a result, kids today are less active, less independent, and less healthy. As much as 20 to 30% of morning traffic can be generated by parents driving their children to schools, and traffic-related crashes are the top cause of death and major injury for children in the U.S. ages 1 to 17.

Concerned by the long-term health and traffic consequences of this trend, in 2005, the U.S. Congress approved $612 million in funding for five years of state implementation of SRTS programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Communities are using this funding to construct new bicycle lanes, pathways, and sidewalks, as well as to launch Safe Routes to School education, promotion and enforcement campaigns in elementary and middle schools.

Wellness: Action for Healthy Kids

With childhood obesity and its alarming consequences at an all-time high, the value of improving nutrition and physical activity in our nation’s schools is clear. But what is not as clear is how to implement the changes needed to make a lasting improvement. The Action for Healthy Kids website provides everything needed to start taking action—from initiating an after-school program to instituting a school wellness policy.

Other topics include academic achievement, advertising/marketing in schools, ala carte foods, alternatives to food as a reward, childhood obesity, co-curricular programs, community family outreach, coordinated school health program, fundraising in schools, minority outreach programs, nutritional information, physical activity, physical education, school health advisory councils, staff wellness programs, and vending/snack stores.