HARRIS COUNTY (KIAH) – The Harris County Public Health department says childhood obesity continues to be a severe problem in our community. In observance of National Childhood Obesity Awareness in September, the health department wants to remind families to follow healthy eating habits and to be physically active to avoid long-term chronic diseases.
Childhood obesity puts children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Including conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, breathing problems like asthma and sleep apnea, and bone and joint problems, to name a few. It can also impact a child’s self-esteem, mental health and social development.
Childhood obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. from 2017 to 2020 was 19.7%, affecting about 14.7 million children and adolescents. Childhood obesity was also more common among specific ethnic and racial populations, including Hispanics (26.2%) and non-Hispanic blacks (24.8%), having higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites (16.6%).
“Childhood obesity is a serious health problem that can have lifelong consequences,” said Ericka Brown, MD, HCPH Local Health Authority and director of the department’s Community Health and Wellness Division. “Families can help prevent childhood obesity by making simple healthy choices about food and physical activity. These choices may include eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, limiting sugary drinks, and doing simple physical activity like walking.”
Below are a few tips that parents and caregivers can follow to help reduce childhood obesity:
- Reduce screen time. Limit the time children and teens watch television, play video games, or use smartphones or tablets. Instead, encourage children and teens to find fun physical activities with friends and family or independently.
- Develop healthy eating habits. Eat a healthy diet low in added sugar, salt and saturated fat, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Offer your child healthy snacks instead of candies or chips. Limit the number of sugary drinks to your child.
- Help children and teens stay active. Physical activities have many health benefits, such as strengthening bones and muscles, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity. Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking walks, riding a bike or playing active games together. Create safe places to play.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with obesity, partly because inadequate sleep may make us eat more and be less physically active. Children and teens need more sleep than adults, and the amount varies by age.