Addressing Childhood Obesity through Family Physical Activity
An effective way to address childhood obesity is by engaging the entire family in learning about physical activity and nutrition. Because obesity is a health concern with complex causes, Promotores(as) can be extremely effective in assisting at-risk individuals—educating them about their behaviors and how simple changes can positively affect their health. This issue of La Esperanza will provide Promotores(as) with resources to educate their communities about obesity, and how physical activity and nutrition can be effective for prevention.
What is obesity?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five children between the ages of 6 and 19 have obesity1 and more than one in three adults has obesity.2 Obesity is a condition when a person has an excess amount of fat. This excess is determined by calculating a person’s Body Max Index (BMI). To calculate BMI, a person’s weight in kilograms is divided by the square of height in meters. A person is considered obese if their BMI is greater than or equal to 303 for adults and at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.3
What causes obesity?
Like many health concerns, obesity is caused by a great number of factors, both internal and external to the individual. Some risk factors are beyond a person’s control such as family medical history and genes. But many other factors can be addressed and modified by the individual at risk. These factors include diet, level of physical activity, and medication use.
What are the consequences of obesity?
The consequences of obesity in children and adults are similar and can lead to more serious life-threatening diseases and health conditions including:
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Increased risk of impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
- Breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
- Joint problems and musculoskeletal discomfort.
- Fatty liver disease, gallstones, and gastro-esophageal reflux (i.e., heartburn).
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression.
- Low self-esteem and lower self-reported quality of life.
- Social problems such as bullying and stigma.4
The Niños Saludables curriculum strives to address the major factors that lead to obesity. It’s intended for families with children because children learn from their parents. Consequently, it’s important for parents to model and reinforce healthy behaviors at home. This is accomplished through four weekly hour-long sessions where families are provided information along with an interactive activity to illustrate the information they learned during the session. The curriculum is divided into four sessions that explore the current state of obesity and physical activity in the US, recommendations for physical activity, developing strategies for a more active life and developing a realistic family calendar to sustain their progress.
Obesity in the US: How did we get here?
While obesity has always existed, we are now seeing much higher rates of obesity in the United States than ever before. A National Institute of Health report showed that from 1980 until 2000, obesity in adults ages 20-74 more than doubled. Children are no exception to this epidemic. The rates of obesity in children have more than doubled and quadrupled in adolescents in the same time frame.5 While discussing the change in prevalence of obesity, it’s important to examine societal changes that have played a role in this change: