Childhood Obesity: Are Our Kids Too Big?
Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents and husband and wife physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson. The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans. Please feel free to send them questions via firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to keep it anonymous.
Question: My daughter received a letter at school after a BMI screening stating that she is obese. The ‘fat letter’ as the students call it, has me worried. Is there anything I can do to help my child have a more normal weight?
Dr. Karla says:
You are not alone. Childhood obesity is a problem of epic proportions in the African American community. It is estimated that over 43 percent of African American children are overweight or obese and the numbers are rising. Studies show that poor dietary habits and excessive weight gain can cause kids to develop serious health problems that have traditionally been thought of as diseases of adulthood. As a result, we are finding more children developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, and respiratory difficulty. The long-term effects on the body from having these types of diseases can be quite damaging by the time these children reach early adulthood.
Emotional health is also a concern for overweight kids. They can be the targets of bullying and social exclusion, leading to insecurity. These controversial ‘fat letters,’ issued by schools in more than 19 states to children whose body mass index (BMI) percentiles are 85 percent or higher, have led to an outcry from parents concerned about its emotional effects as well. While intended to be used as a tool to encourage more nutritious eating habits, parents feel that the letters may lead to further social isolation.
Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to help prevent all of the long term health consequences, (both physical and emotional) that can develop, and it starts with supporting your child. It is possible to acknowledge an issue with weight and make adjustments to correct it, all while helping your child maintain a positive self image. This has to be priority #1.
Dr. Rob says:
One of the best ways to prevent and/or reverse childhood obesity is by ensuring exercise and physical activity is a part of the daily routine of each child. Children should receive at least an hour each day of moderate physical activity. This would include activities like walking, running, dancing, jumping rope, and other sports activities. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight by balancing the amount of calories eaten with the amount of calories used through exercise, staying physically active has many other benefits for children. Regular physical activity helps to reduce stress, improve blood pressure, and strengthen the growing bones.
Making the appropriate dietary choices for children is essential in helping them maintain a healthy weight and preventing the rise of childhood obesity. Providing food options for kids that are nutritious, balanced, and that contain the appropriate number of calories needed for healthy bodies will introduce them to a lifestyle of healthy eating habits that they are likely to carry with them in adulthood when they are making their own food choices.
Here are a few quick tips for making healthy food choices:
* Taste the Rainbow. No…not Skittles, the rainbow of fruits and vegetables that make for a colorful plate.
* Forget the fat. Choose lean meats and low-fat, or non-fat milk or dairy products.
* Bigger isn’t Better. Make sure to serve reasonably-sized portions and avoid the temptation to overdo it.
* Wet your Whistle with Water. Drink lots of water and limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!
About the Doctors:
Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show. For more from the doctors, visit their website at www.urbanhousecallmagazine.com, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on twitter @urbanhousecall!