Can We Halt Childhood Obesity?

Ellen Haas Health Guide
  • This week the Washington Post began running an eight-part series about overweight and obese children. This serious public health problem has been growing in severity over the past few decades and so have the risks from chronic diseases like heart disease and many forms of cancer. As the articles point out, as children got fatter and less active, health problems mounted, but this health problem was ignored by parents, the government and the medical community.


    Now, it is widely recognized that we have to stop the steep rise of childhood obesity and there has been increased awareness about the problems. Finally there has been some progress as many in the private and public sectors have begun to get working to address this public health crisis.

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    But more needs to be done - and done quickly - if today's generation of children will live long, healthy lives. Yes, the problem is a complex one and individuals do have responsibility but there also have to be changes in the marketplace, in schools and in the media for there to be a positive impact on children's health.


    Because we are facing such a critical public health problem it has become important that our government provide the leadership necessary to make these overdue changes. The Institute of Medicine recognized this as an acute problem in 2004 and demanded that the government take "immediate steps for confronting the epidemic."


    Here are some areas where action is still needed. But also note that some progress is also being made:


    Nutrition standards are needed for foods and beverages sold in schools.

    A voluntary agreement led by the Clinton Foundation's Alliance for a Healthier Generation with the beverage industry is a step in the right direction.


    Guidelines need to be developed for advertising and marketing to children.

    The recent action by Kellogg's to restrict their advertising to children based on how many calories, saturated fat and sugar were in the products was another positive step. Many candy companies have also pulled ads directed at children.


    In the marketplace and in the media changes are also needed:


    New, healthier food and beverage products need to be developed and reformulated.

    According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America more than 10,000 healthier products have been offered or reformulated. Many products are in portion-controlled packaging.


    More consumer nutrition information that is clear and consistent is needed.

    While there are examples of effective nutrition education at the community level, more is needed to compete with the $12 billion that is spent on marketing to children.


    And finally there is much that we can do as parents to provide an environment for our children so that they make healthy food choices. What are your favorite strategies for putting together healthy meals for your children? What are your favorite healthy snacks for your children?


    I think that cooking with your children is one of the best ways for children to learn about healthy eating.


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    At Ellen's Healthy Table, we all had a great time enjoying these wonderful recipes that are perfect to prepare with your children.


Published On: June 05, 2008