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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

As we roll into the fall, and we begin to settle into the back-to-school routine, let’s remember that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Disparities in Obesity

While the rate of obesity continues to increase, it is important to note that it disproportionately affects minority children and children from low socio-economic status families.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six children and adolescents residing in the United States of America is obese.[1] That means that 18.5% of children are obese. This rate increases to 25.8% for Hispanic children, and to 22% for non-Hispanic black children. Children who are from low income households are more likely to suffer from obesity. Families with a low socio-economic status face several environmental challenges that can increase the risk for obesity and diabetes. Children from low income households are more likely to reside in neighborhoods with a disproportionately high number of fast food restaurants and a disproportionately low number of grocery stores, otherwise known as food desserts. Living in a food dessert means having a longer commute to buy groceries which can add an extra burden for caretakers to provide nutritious meals for their families, especially those who struggle from lack of transportation. In addition, living in a neighborhood with high crime rates can make playing at parks unsafe, resulting in a more sedentary lifestyle.

Alternative ways to decrease the risk for Childhood obesity: Meal Prep and Breast Feeeding

While we can recognize that eating a balanced diet can help folks lose weight, finding the time and energy to prepare a healthy meal every day is a challenge for many families. If you are short on time, a healthy an economically smart idea is to meal prep your meals. On your day off, go to the grocery store and take advantage of bulk sales; remember you will be cooking multiple meals that day.[2] When you get home spend a couple of hours preparing and storing food for the rest of the week. It is easy to find a multitude of meal prep recipes on YouTube. Not a fan of eating the same meal every day? You can also find meal prep recipes which use the same ingredients to create different meals in a short time frame. You will be less likely to stop by a fast food restaurant if you have a prepared meal ready to go for lunch.

There are many benefits to breastfeeding your infant. Babies who are breastfeed have a stronger immune system, have a reduced risk of upset stomach, and experience an increased time of bonding with the mother than formula fed babies. However, few people know that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity[3] in infants- a benefit that can stay within into adulthood. Infants who are formula fed have a higher protein intake which leads to a higher body weight. Researchers believe that infants with a higher body weight are at a higher risk for become overweight and/or obese in childhood.  Breast milk has hormones which help regulate a baby’s food intake and may contribute to long-term physiological processes that can help the baby’s risk for obesity to decrease later in life.

As you jump into fall, remember there are steps you can take this National Childhood Obesity observance month to help your child have a bright and healthy future. For more resources go to: https://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/index.html

Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html

[2] https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-03-08/how-meal-prep-sunday-can-drastically-reduce-your-food-costs

[3] http://www.who.int/elena/titles/bbc/breastfeeding_childhood_obesity/en/