childhood obesity

Kid Fitness – This Week on Total Health Radio

Kids FitnessIf there are children you care about who are struggling with fitness and weight, you are not alone.  The number of obese children has tripled in the last 20 years.  The prevalence of processed snack foods combined with the growing popularity of sedentary, screen-related activities (watching TV, playing video games, surfing the Web) is a perfect storm when it comes to the fitness levels of our youth.  This week’s Total Health Radio episode explores the challenges today’s youth (and their parents) are up against, and what we can do to help the kids in our lives eat better, reduce their screen time, and become more active.

Fighting Childhood Obesity: One Story of How it Can Be Done

Kaiser Permanente’s Care Stories blog is featuring interviews with young people who struggled with obesity and made the changes necessary to get to a healthy weight — adopting behaviors that promote nutritious eating and active lifestyles. One of these stories, highlighted below, is of Josie Clayton, who was diagnosed as pre-diabetic at the age of 15. Clayton joined a pediatric healthy lifestyle program and went on to lose 60 pounds.

For more inspiration, check out all the other personal stories highlighted at the Care Stories blog.

What’s the latest thing affecting how our kids breathe? Their own weight.

While copious evidence exists that should have all of us concerned about the children’s obesity epidemic, there’s now one more reason.

Research conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation – and published this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology – shows a higher incidence of asthma, as well as more frequent and severe attacks, among obese and overweight children.

What’s not yet clear is the relationship between obesity and asthma, though both have increased substantially over the last 30 years.  More large-scale studies would need to be conducted to explore the link between the two.

Mary Ellen Black, PhD, the lead author of the study, notes that overweight or obese young girls and Asian-Pacific Islander children have a higher likelihood of developing the respiratory condition.  Knowing this, says Black, will allow prevention programs to be developed and shared with these high-risk populations.

This is the second study around the health of kids in the last two weeks to be published by Kaiser Permanente.  Last week, the health organization’s Institute for Health Research found that children with elevated blood pressure do not usually receive the recommended follow up visits and care.  With the challenges around diagnosing hypertension in children (because blood pressure changes as they mature), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends following up a child’s high BP reading with another check one to two weeks later.

Matthew F. Daley, MD, a researcher at the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, notes that adult cardiovascular disease – including strokes and coronary artery disease – can start in childhood.  For that reason, proper diagnosis and management of hypertension in kids is vital for their overall, lifelong health.

Findings for both studies are part of Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing child health research.  You can read more about its work in research here.

All Physical Education is Not Created Equal

SPARK's Paul Rosengard (and friend)

SPARK’s Paul Rosengard (and friend)

With the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States, a great deal of focus has been put on schools as the “heart of health” — the best location to address behaviors leading to childhood obesity.  Schools are tasked with creating an environment where making the healthy choice is the easy choice,  Even with this goal in mind, with limited resources, many schools are faced with reducing the number of physical education hours available to students.

With limited access to PE, it’s important to make all physical activity in K-12 classes count.

In a recent blog post, the Thriving Schools team interviewed Paul Rosengard, author, researcher/educator, and executive director of SPARK programs of San Diego State University. According to its website, SPARK is a research-based, public health organization dedicated to improving the health of children, adolescents, and adults by disseminating evidence-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.

The blog post is the first in a three-part discussion on what makes quality PE.  Rosengard touches on the variances in PE requirements from state to state, as well as how to measure the quality of a PE program (hint: frequency and duration are only part of the story).

Read the first in a series of three posts highlighting this interview with Rosengard on the Thriving Schools website and news blog.

The Center for Total Health has a new, interactive, touch-screen exhibit focused on healthy schools and healthy workplaces, and much of its content addresses the growing challenge of obesity in the United States.  If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, we invite you to stop by and experience it — and the rest of the center’s exhibits — first hand.  You can find information about visiting the center here.

USDA Supports Better Health for Kids with New “Smart Snacks in Schools” Guidelines

PrintThe USDA announced this week the latest addition to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: The “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards.  Highlights of these new standards. according to the website, include:

    • More of the foods we should encourage.
    • Less of the foods we should avoid.
    • Targeted beverage standards allowing variation by age group.
    • Flexibility for important traditions.
    • Ample time for implementation.

The infographic here illustrates the difference in school snacks before and after introduction of the standards.

More on this news can be found on the Thriving Schools blog or via the USDA’s official press release.

Fighting Childhood Obesity with the Inspiring Premiere of the Weight of the Nation for Kids

Tonight, the documentary, The Weight of the Nation for Kids, premieres on HBO.  The three-part series focuses on young people taking the initiative to fight obesity by effecting real change in their school and community environments.

The three films are:

  • The Great Cafeteria Takeover, which follows a group of children in New Orleans that set out to make a difference in their community during the post-Katrina rebuilding period, eventually succeeding in changing their school lunch menus to include healthier options.
  • Kabreeya’s Salad Days, the story of 17-year-old Kabreeya Lewis, whose fierce persistence allowed her to achieve her goal of having a salad bar in her high school cafeteria in North Carolina.
  • Quiz Ed!, a documentary-style quiz show that polls young people, ranging from 10 to 18 years of age, using riddles about the food and activity factors that are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Kaiser Permanente is also addressing the issue of obesity through the recently launched Thriving Schools — a comprehensive, national effort for K-12 students, their parents and families as well as teachers and staff, focused on creating a culture of health in schools. These efforts combined are part of an ongoing commitment to improve school health through healthy food options and regular physical activity.

The original Weight of the Nation series of documentaries first aired on HBO (and were available on the documentary’s official website) in 2012, and was part of a major public awareness campaign aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic in the United States.  More on The Weight of the Nation series is available here, and on the official website.

The Center for Total Health has a new, interactive, touch-screen exhibit focused on healthy schools and healthy workplaces, and much of its content addresses the growing challenge of obesity in the United States.  If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, we invite you to stop by and experience it — and the rest of the center’s exhibits — first hand.  You can find information about visiting the center here.

Experts Weigh in on Preventing and Addressing Obesity

As National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s clear that childhood obesity is an issue supported by communities, parents, schools and community programs around the nation.

Recently, the East Bay Community Foundation partnered with Kaiser Permanente to present the Weight of the Nation—a national public health campaign targeting obesity—at the Council on Foundations’ annual community foundations conference in New Orleans. The East Bay Community Foundation is an important partner in the work to combat obesity in our local communities, and the organization demonstrates how community foundations nationwide can lead collaborative efforts in fighting obesity. In this interview, Nicole Taylor, president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation, explains the challenges in Northern California that the East Bay Community Foundation and Kaiser Permanente are working to address.

Although Colorado takes pride in being the leanest state in the nation, the rate of overweight and obesity among children in Colorado is on the rise. In addition, the rate of childhood poverty is rising faster in Colorado than everywhere else in the nation. Children living in poverty are faced with a number of barriers putting them at greater risk for becoming overweight or obese including less access to nutritious foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Over the last few years, The Denver Foundation and Kaiser Permanente have both supported a nonprofit aimed at addressing hunger in Colorado. Hunger Free Colorado, formerly known as the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger, is the state’s leading advocate to end hunger. It aims to do this by increasing participation in federal nutrition programs, food stamps, and school breakfast and lunch programs.

In this interview, Barbara Berv, vice president of philanthropic services at The Denver Foundation, speaks about their partnership with Kaiser Permanente and Hunger Free Colorado and the goal of eliminating hunger in Colorado.

The City of New Orleans has been taking bold steps to address obesity and fitness on a local level—most especially for the city’s children. In this recent interview, Dr. Karen DeSalvo, City of New Orleans health commissioner, discusses the Fit NOLA Partnership, which aims to improve fitness levels and combat childhood obesity in New Orleans through a number of innovative, data-driven program and policies. DeSalvo’s vision is that through Fit Nola, New Orleans will become one of the top ten fittest cities in the United States by 2018.

 

Kid-Friendly Resources for Healthy Eating & Active Living

In honor of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we thought we’d offer a few helpful resources for engaging children and young people in healthy eating and active living.

Healthy Eating

Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move! campaign recently teamed up with Epicurious, the award-winning food website, to challenge kids across the country to submit their original recipes for nutritious and delicious lunches. The top 54 winning submissions were featured in The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Cookbook and invited to the White House for a luncheon celebration with Mrs. Obama herself. The menu included some of the winning recipes, including kale chips and a quinoa, corn, and black bean salad.

Consider sharing these resources with the young people in your life….all of us need to engage in activities that foster healthy living.

Looking for more inspiration to get your family cooking healthy and delicious meals together? Check out Chop Chop, a quarterly food magazine and website for kids aged 5-12 and their families. ChopChop’s mission is to educate kids to cook and be nutritionally literate, empower them to actively participate as health partners with their families, and help establish and support better eating habits for a lifetime of good nutrition. The magazine and website are packed with great recipes, fun facts about food and food nutrition, basics on how to use kitchen utensils, and even some tips on how to grow your own vegetables at home.

Active Living

Our friends from the Care Management Institute and the pediatric department of Kaiser Permanente in Hayward, Calif. recently offered up a list of free fitness videos to help get kids and youth more active. Check these out:

Resources for kids

 Resources for teens

We all need to work together for better health. Consider sharing these resources with the young people in your life, and help build awareness about how all of us need to engage in activities that foster healthy living.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Find Inspiration for Changing Behavior

Obesity prevention and treatment are recurring topics explored in this blog, and for good reason.  According to the official website for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, more than 23 million U.S. children and teens are obese or overweight—an epidemic putting almost one third of this nation’s children at early risk for conditions usually not seen until adulthood, like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke (not to mention gallstone disease, as highlighted in a recent post).

Three inspiring stories of kids who made changes in how they eat and move are now featured on the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories Blog.  The videos, including the one below featuring college student Josie Clayton, show how these young people and their families made practical shifts in behavior and reaped health-improving results.

Read more about Josie here, and check out the other featured videos—stories from Austin Stanfill and Jesse Campos.  For information, online resources and tools to promote September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, you can download the COAM’s official toolkit.

Study Finds Link Between Childhood Obesity and Gallstones

A study published this week in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition indicates that overweight and obese children are at higher risk of gallstones.

The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente, was based on the information in electronic health records of more than 500,000 children, ages 10 to 19, from 2007 to 2009.   Researchers found that overweight children are twice as likely to suffer from gallstone disease compared to children and teens with a normal body mass index.  Kids identified as moderately obese were four times as likely to develop gallstones, and extremely obese children were six times as likely.  There also was a higher association between obesity and gallstones in girls.

this points to a disturbing trend:  Obese children being diagnosed with diseases normally considered adult conditions.

Because of the size of the study, researchers could explore racial and ethnic health disparities, and they found that Hispanic youth had a higher likelihood of developing gallstones than children from other ethnicities.

Authors of the study point out that while they are common in obese adults, gallstones in children and teens have been historically rare, and that this points to a disturbing trend:  Obese children being diagnosed with diseases normally considered adult conditions.

The study is part of ongoing research and community programs focused on identifying and treating childhood obesity.  Earlier published research, the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Children’s Health Study, found that 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls under the age of 20 are extremely obese.

Read more on the study here.  And check out the video, below, on the growing prevalence of extreme obesity in children.

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