Community effort aims to improve child health habitsThe percentage of American children ages 6 to 11 who are obese doubled between 1980 and 2006.
By: Dave Olson, INFORUM
The percentage of American children ages 6 to 11 who are obese doubled between 1980 and 2006.
For people ages 10 to 19, the percentage of those deemed obese tripled over the same period of time, rising from 5 to 17.6 percent.
“We really need to start paying attention to this,” Jenifer Jones-Dees told a group of people attending the Active Living, Healthy Eating Summit on Wednesday at the Fargo Holiday Inn.
Jones-Dees, a pediatrician, said local health professionals are encountering children as young as 4 who show signs of high blood pressure, bone and joint problems and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Children with poor health habits become adults with poor health habits, Jones-Dees said, adding that there must be a community effort to educate adults who care for children.
“You can’t just treat a child, you have to treat family behaviors,” said Jones-Dees.
A locally developed program aims to do just that by showing child care providers how they can help educate parents about the importance of physical activity and nutrition, she said.
All licensed child care providers in Cass and Clay counties were recently sent information about the program and 17 have signed up to take advantage of reduced-cost training available for up to 20 providers.
There’s room for an additional 100 or so providers to take part in a less-intensive program that involves keeping track of the activities children participate in during the day.
Under the pilot program, if providers meet certain goals they will receive incentives such as backpacks and T-Shirts, said Rory Beil, director of the Cass Clay Healthy People Initiative, which along with the Dakota Medical Foundation sponsored Wednesday’s summit.
The event drew people from many occupations, including child care providers, public health professionals and representatives of faith-based organizations.
Donna Oberg, a trainer for the nonprofit Lakes & Prairies Child Care Resource & Referral, told attendees that even small changes in daily routines can make a big difference when it comes to promoting healthy changes in children’s lives.
Doubling up activities – learning a song while washing hands, or counting while jumping up and down – is one option, she said.
“We know when people are moving, you’re putting things directly in the brain,” Oberg said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555