NORMAN — As America wrangles daunting issues, no challenge is more urgent than protecting the health and well-being of our children now and as they grow.
Over the past several decades, we have witnessed childhood obesity grow to epidemic proportions. More than 23 million children and teenagers are obese or overweight. That’s roughly one child in every three.
These youngsters risk developing serious health problems in adulthood, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer. The financial impact is a sobering $14 billion per year in direct health care costs alone. The psychosocial consequences can hinder these children academically and socially.
You can help: join our community in observing National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this September. Parents, health care providers, educators, civic leaders and organizations have created programs and activities to promote healthy eating and physical activity, such as “Shape Your Future.” This is a collaborative campaign promoted by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and TSET, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which invites Oklahomans to “eat better, move more and be tobacco free.”
Locally, the Cleveland County Nutrition and Fitness Coalition is active in helping schools, after-school programs, workplaces and communities encourage children and adults to be more physically active and advocating for local and state policies that support healthy eating.
Even with these activities, the effort begins at home. Parents have an enormous influence over their children’s lifestyles through the example they set and the decisions they make. By modeling healthy eating and physically active lifestyles, we can set our children on the road to a lifetime of good habits.
The fight against childhood obesity gains momentum in September, and the results can last a lifetime. All children deserve a healthy start in life; it’s our responsibility to make that possible. Learn more at COAM-month.org, and for nutrition and physical activity tips, visit ShapeYourFutureOK.com.
To find out what is happening in Cleveland County, contact Elizabeth Moody at 307-1016.
Donna M. Tall Bear, MS, CHES, is a certified health coach, is spokesperson for Cleveland County Nutrition and Fitness Coalition and is an instructor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the University of Oklahoma, Norman campus.