ABOVE: Participants of Zeta Chi Chapter, Inc. and the Girl Scouts Ministry of New Faith Church’s event to empower parents, caregivers and children to adapt a healthier lifestyle
The health of our children is in our hands. Yet, are we doing such a good job managing it?
Unfortunately, not so, according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention which notes that 1 in 5 children are considered obese. You may ask if all children are affected with obesity in the same way. Glad you asked.
Obesity affects children from different backgrounds differently. For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years from 2017-2020, obesity prevalence was reported to be 24.8% among non-Hispanic Black children.
If you asked any parent if they wanted their child to grow up healthy without the burden of monetary expenses, doctor’s visits, and medications in adulthood for a chronic illness, it’s likely the response would be a resounding “Yes.” Yet our children are at a greater risk of developing obesity than ever before.
Growing up healthy is no doubt a family affair, largely because it poses a significant challenge for parents or caregivers. Turning things around means they often must make some soul-searching decisions that require changes in their lifestyles and “saying no” to persistent and enticing television marketing of unhealthy foods.
So, how did we get here?
For starters, a fast-paced lifestyle has handicapped society in choosing nutritious healthy options. A report estimates 40% of dietary intake is in the fast lane of take outs and dine-ins coupled with eating convenience or processed foods that are high in sodium, fat, sugar, and calories. Granted, availability of healthy food at reasonable prices can be a showstopper for some families. Add to that, too little physical activity often spurned by too much screen time in an era of social media, cell phone communications, media entertainment and sometimes limited access to safe outdoor playing space and recreational centers in some neighborhoods. Finally, early life stress, family history and changes in digestive hormones may play a role in the development of obesity.
Well, how is obesity determined? It’s a pretty simple method adopted by the Healthcare community but can be readily used at home. Healthcare providers use what’s referred to as the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine if a child’s weight fits the criteria for being overweight or obese. It is compared with growth charts for children who are the same age and sex as the child. Keep in mind that a high BMI increases the risk for disease. Parents or caregivers can take these measurements themselves using these simple instructions on the CDC website: htps://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/bmi/calculator.html. Being armed with this information means having a conversation with your child’s doctor about what the results mean for him or her.
Tips for Parents or Caregivers: Let’s Get Busy!
Screen Time Timeout! Reduce screen time in front of phones, computers, and TV to less than one to two hours daily.
Adjust Sleep Habits! Model sleep habits and turn off the screens before bedtime. Researchers report that less rest can lead to weight gain by increasing food intake or decreasing energy burned.
Don’t Sit, Be Fit! Encourage physical activity. Put into action your way of moving more and sitting less. Make it a family affair when possible.
It May Taste Good, but it May Not Be Healthy for You! Gradually work to change family eating habits with emphasis on reducing sugar, salt, and saturated fats in processed foods (usually ready to eat packaged, canned, or boxed).
Capture Teachable Moments! Check Out Those Labels and Teach the Kids to Do It Too When Grocery Shopping! This is a good time to teach them about nutrition facts. Keep in mind that a natural or organic label may be enticing but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Beware of hidden sugars, salts, and fats on the label.
This is one among many online aids for helping to learn how to read food labels:
Community Involvement with Stopping the Train
Our children’s health is worth guarding to keep this train from wrecking and turning obese children into obese adults. The outcome will result in serious health problems such as diabetes, breathing and heart related problems; coupled with associated emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Concerned community organizations are reaching out to communities to fight childhood obesity by offering educational support to children and parents or caregivers. One such organization is the Zeta Chi Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority Incorporated, a professional nursing organization of over 8,000 registered nurses nationwide.
On April 22nd, Zeta Chi Chapter, Inc., a local chapter, responded to a call from the Girl Scouts Ministry of New Faith Church to empower parents or caregivers and children ages 5 to 16 with “self-help” measures that they can put into action to lock them in the driver’s seat for adapting a healthier lifestyle. The event was supported by a grant awarded by AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company and community donors such as Ice at the Galleria, H-E-B, The Childrens’ Museum and Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, Dr. Cynthia Hickman. Participants were engaged with numerous questions about how to choose healthier ways to live. Parental feedback was solicited with questions which were especially positive related to the helpfulness of the event.
Let’s keep the conversation going in our churches, schools, and children’s community organizations to turn this runaway train around and give our children a chance to live the healthy lives they so richly deserve!
Lawanna Hart, MSN (retired nurse)
Newsletter Committee Chair, Zeta Chi Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority, Inc., and Middlesouth Regional Newsletter Committee Co-Chair
Dan L. Duncan
Comprehensive Care Center Community Advisory Board Member