Childhood obesity: two words that should never be juxtaposed
have become such a ubiquitous term that when you type the word
"childhood" into the Google search box, "obesity" prepopulates.
How did we get here?
The statistics are scary. Obesity
has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in
the past 30 years. Type 2 diabetes now accounts for
about 15 percent to 45 percent of all newly diagnosed cases of
diabetes in children and teenagers. And for the first time in
decades, it is predicted that this generation of children will live
shorter (and unhealthier) lives than their parents.
Children today move less than children of previous generations.
True. Television watching, video game playing, and computer (and
other handheld electronic device) use is more prevalent among
children and teenagers today than even 10 or 15 years ago.
Many children today eat more than children used to. True. Well,
only sort of true. Children today aren't necessarily eating larger
amounts of food than previous generations of children. But children
today are eating more fast food and pre-packaged food than
children of previous generations--something that has been linked to
higher rates of obesity.
And now, a new documentary titled "FED UP" that arrived
in theaters in May 2014, is putting the spotlight on sugar. Some
noteworthy statistics from the film: a 20-ounce soda contains the
equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking one soda a day
increases a child's risk of obesity by 60 percent. A whopping 98
percent of food-related advertisements that children see each year
are for products that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium. More than
9 million adolescents are considered overweight. This is scary, and
it's a real issue that we should address…yesterday.
There is no shortage of frightening stories about the childhood
obesity epidemic, but I don't want to use up any more space to talk
about that. Instead, I want to highlight three public health
initiatives that are going past just talking about this issue and
taking real action.
Threads: Founded in 2003, Common Threads seeks to
educate children in underserved communities to cook healthy meals.
In 2013, the organization embarked on a new initiative, with the
goal of getting 1 million children across the country cooking in
the next five years. According to its website, students enrolled in
Common Threads programs exhibited a 96 percent improvement in
healthy food choices. Watch Common Threads students learn about
healthy foods from Thailand.
Food Literacy: Food literacy is defined as
"understanding the impact of your food choices on your health, the
environment, and our community," and it is the mission of
California Food Literacy to "promote a food literate population" in
the state. Founded in 2011, the organization partnered with Passmore Ranch to provide food
education to schoolchildren. Watch representatives from California
Food Literacy and Passmore Ranch discuss this
Foundation for Children: The Vetri Foundation for
Children was founded in 2008 to "help kids experience the
connection between healthy eating and healthy living." The
foundation launched Eatiquette, a school lunch program that is now
in place in several Philadelphia-area schools; it employs fresh,
healthy food and family style dining, which "creates an interactive
environment where kids don't just eat lunch, they dine." Watch the
Vetri Foundation for Children founders talk about the
For healthy eating tips, visit the USDA's
ChooseMyPlate website. Together we can take on childhood
obesity one meal at a time.