MI Action for Healthy Kids Coalition

By: Rachel Calderon
By: Rachel Calderon

They say it's the junk food in our school cafeterias, and the reduction of physical education that's making Michigan kids fat. The Michigan Action for Healthy Kids Coalition met in Lansing to pinpoint the sources of childhood obesity and come up with specific solutions.

"Daily quality physical education needs to become a mandate in Michigan. Once or twice a week is not enough. There's only one state in the US that has a mandated K-12, and we'd like to see Michigan become the second state," Al Craven, Health Consultant.

"We're looking at the way food is presented to our kids and we're looking at establishing guidelines to change that," Mark Terman, MI Action for Healthy Kids Coalition.

In a down economy and a state facing budget cuts, many in the Coalition agree keeping kids healthy now may not generate more dollars, but down the road, it'll save the state millions in health care expenses.

"We can affect health, prescription drugs, and health care bills by making sure kids eat right and get them down a healthy road," Rep. Virg Bernero (D)- Holt.

Some suggest adding more healthy food choices to school menus may do the trick, but others say legislators and school administrators have to agree on an economic and healthy solution. Otherwise, our kids' waistlines will continue to grow, and our healthcare dollars will always be spent.

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Obesity in Children

  • In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight.

  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.

  • Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

  • The most immediate consequence of being overweight or obese as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

Cause of Obesity

  • Obesity in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.

  • Forty-three percent of adolescents watch more than two hours of television each day.

  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.

Identification

  • Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or adolescent's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.

  • A physician will also consider your child or adolescent's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

General Suggestions

  • Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem.

  • Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

  • Focus on your child's health and positive qualities, not your child's weight.

  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

Physical Activity Suggestions

  • Be physically active. It is recommended that Americans accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Even greater amounts of physical activity may be necessary for the prevention of weight gain, for weight loss, or for sustaining weight loss.

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

  • Provide a safe environment for your children and their friends to play actively; encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, and other fun activities.

  • Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than two hours a day.

Source: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/ calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm (The Surgeon General's Call to Action Web site)


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