Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Taking on Childhood Obesity Starts with Health Education

Taking on Childhood Obesity Starts with Health Education

Managing Editor

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.

But why?

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.

Common 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.

California 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 unique program.

Vetri 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 Eatiquette program.

For healthy eating tips, visit the USDA's ChooseMyPlate website. Together we can take on childhood obesity one meal at a time.

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