AUBURN, Ala. – Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years. Studies show that nearly 15 percent of American children ages 2 to 19 are considered overweight and 16 percent are considered obese.
Childhood Obesity Problems
Dr. Sondra Parmer, an Alabama Extension specialist in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed), said obesity can affect a child’s life in many ways.
“Obesity in childhood has been linked to risk factors for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and also type 2 diabetes,” Parmer said. “Obese children also can suffer from low self-esteem and are sometimes targets of bullying.”
Parmer explained that obesity is a complex issue and there is no magic cure. However, there are behaviors that can improve healthy weight outcomes.
Behaviors Positively Affect Obesity
Parmer said the following four behaviors can positively affect obesity.
- Eat a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and also lean proteins.
- Limit sugar sweetened beverages, sodium and fat.
- Watch portion sizes.
- Increase physical activity. Children need at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.
Alabama Extension created Body Quest for children in elementary schools. During the 2016-2017 school year, county SNAP-Ed educators provided Body Quest to more than 5,000 third-graders in 55 Alabama counties, 114 schools and 338 classrooms.
“Body Quest is an innovative childhood obesity prevention initiative that empowers third-graders and their parents to make better health choices,” Parmer said. “The program uses a group of animated characters, the Body Quest Warriors, to lead the fight to prevent childhood obesity.”
This statewide effort combines theory-driven classroom instruction, technology and also evidence-based approaches to prevent childhood obesity. Body Quest Warriors challenge elementary youth to develop healthy behaviors through Apple iPad apps. These apps energize third-graders in new ways to eat fruits and vegetables offered through the National School Lunch Program.
Katie Funderburk, the Nutrition Coordinator with SNAP-Ed, believes it is critical to involve parents in the initiative.
“Momentum continues into the home environment with simple, fun and action-oriented parent participation,” Funderburk said. “This sets Body Quest apart as an exemplary multilevel intervention.”
The key objectives of Body Quest are:
- Increase student fruit and also vegetable consumption through the National School Lunch Program.
- Impact student choices regarding sugary beverage consumption as well as physical activity.
- Help parents make the home more vegetable-friendly through recipe preparation.
- Motivate parents to make positive changes through text message reminders.
Childhood obesity undermines the physical as well as the psychological well-being of children. There is an urgent need to improve the health of this generation and future generations. Extension proves that progress can be made if all factors remain committed to working together toward ending childhood obesity.
To learn more about Body Quest, contact your county Extension office or visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com.
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