September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 4:56 a.m. PT
Originally published: September 6, 2017, at 10:56 a.m. PT
For many kids and families, September means back to school and the return of busy schedules, less sleep, and reduced play time. These factors, and others, influence childhood obesity, which according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), affects 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States.
September is also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which gives us all the opportunity to learn more about this serious health condition. While there is no simple solution, there are many ways communities can support children with their journey to good health.
Childhood Obesity Is a Major Public Health Concern
- Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their peers that do no carry excess weight.
- Children with obesity can also be bullied and teased more than their peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.
- Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health risks. Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many types of cancers.
Childhood Obesity Is Influenced by Many Factors
Many factors can have an impact on childhood obesity, including eating and physical activity behaviors, genetics, metabolism, family and home environment, and community and social factors. For some children and families, obesity may be influenced by the following:
- too much time spent being inactive
- lack of sleep
- lack of places to go in the community to get physical activity
- easy access to inexpensive, high calorie foods and sugary beverages
- lack of access to affordable, healthier foods
The Y is a Leading Voice
Through our ACT! (Actively Changing Together!) program developed in partnership with Seattle Children's, the Y is keeping kids healthy and preventing childhood obesity in King and south Snohomish counties. This program helps families live healthier together by getting active, learning about nutrition, and discussing lifestyle changes that they can incorporate at home. Some strategies include:
Eat & Drink Healthy: Encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family, choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Make water the drink of choice by placing a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. Try adding oranges, limes, or mint for extra flavor without the sugar.
Play Every Day and Get Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of active, unstructured play, preferably outside! Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving together. Try taking an after-dinner walk, play basketball, or bike together around your neighborhood.
Get Together: Eat together as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation, and clean up. In addition, kids and adults can aim to take a break from electronics and spend one-on-one time each day, enjoying one another’s company.
Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Set a family challenge to reduce screen time at home by turning off TVs and phones during meals. Plan a fun family reward for achieving your goal.
Sleep Well: Kids and adults both need to keep a regular sleep schedule. Unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Turn off TVs and electronic devices an hour before bedtime to help kids establish a regular pattern and fall asleep easier. When possible, aim for kids to get about 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night.