National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
September 5, 2012

September Is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

September is back-to-school season. Students are shopping around for school supplies and becoming acclimated to new teachers and friends. To go with the festivities of the start of the school year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is also preparing for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

There are a number of programs that HHS looks to highlight with National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

“September marks the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time for us to encourage America´s children to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime,” wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a prepared statement. “All kids deserve to experience the positive health benefits of daily physical activity and healthy eating, and have those opportunities available to them.”

A few resources for families and educators include the President´s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); as well as the National Institute of Health´s We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children´s Activity Nutrition and Program). We Can! is a national movement focused on providing caregivers, parents and community members a way to help kids maintain a healthy weight. These resources include fun activities and resources to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary activity for families. According to research from the organization, parents and caregivers are the main influence on this specific age group.

There are also public-private partnerships, such as efforts by the Partnership for a Healthier America and the Olympic Team USA to increase the number of opportunities for free and low-cost physical health programs. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently created a new farm to school grant program to help inform children on different food sources as well as up the number of local food sources offered in school cafeterias. For the farm to school grant program, the first funding cycle will offer $3.5 million in grant funding to support school programs that increase access to local foods.

Obesity has been a growing problem for school-age children in the last 30 years. The CDC reported that, in 2010, about 17 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 years of ages were diagnosed as obese. As well, children and teens that are already obese are thought to stay obese as adults. These overweight kids are also more likely to develop chronic health issues such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and particular types of cancer.

Furthermore, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children between the ages of six and 17 years of age should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity on a daily basis. As well, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010 advised that people in the U.S. consume more healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat products. Similarly, individuals should work to limit foods high in sodium, fat and sugar.

“Everyone has a role to play — parents and caregivers, school teachers and administrators, community leaders, local elected officials, after school programmers, and health care providers,” continued Sebelius in the statement.