Once again, September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Suggestions and resources for activists can be found at HealthFinder.gov which offers starter-kit suggestions.
Let’s look at the implications and ramifications of some. Here’s one:
Encourage families to make small changes, like keeping fresh fruit within reach or going on a family walk after dinner.
Maybe the whole “butterfly effect” story is a bit much, but without getting into nonlinear equations and chaos theory, it is possible to say that the potential impact of a small change should never be underestimated. It is true that change is difficult to bring about in families, which are sometimes too proud of being set in their ways.
Kids are especially prone to rebellion of different kinds, at different ages. Like most of us, they don’t like to be told what to do. In a family setting, a demand that everyone go on a hike because it’s good for us might be resisted.
A crafty parent will start with a child’s interest, which might be to find a certain kind of rock, or a bird skeleton. Plan a hike with the one kid, and see how fast somebody else gets on board. You welcome that next one, and pretty soon, who knows? All family members might come along.
Or maybe they will next time. The point is, you never know until you try. And once the horizons open up a bit, you never know what might happen. Going for a walk, you might run across a place that teaches martial arts; and a year from now, have the fittest former fat kid on the block.
Here’s another suggestion:
Motivate teachers and administrators to make schools healthier. Help them provide healthy food options and daily physical activities for students.
On a local level, one secret of exerting influence is to not just show up for your own hot-button issue. It helps a lot to build your street cred by joining the PTA, or going to every city council meeting. Volunteer. Earn the reputation of a reasonable, level-headed citizen who works and plays well with others. This is the path to becoming a motivator of teachers and administrators.
Ask doctors and nurses to be leaders in their communities by supporting programs to prevent childhood obesity.
This suggestion might need some thought. Doctors and nurses are already asked for a lot. Could time and energy be more effectively applied to the root, namely, their education? It might be more effective, in the long run, to look into the requirements to graduate from medical school.
What are doctors taught about obesity? It might be very dangerous to assume that we know what goes on there. What else should be added to the curriculum?
Pediatrician Dyan Hes wrote “What I Wish Everyone Knew About Childhood Obesity,” which includes these words:
I try to make recommendations that I think a patient can accomplish in a week or two, whether it’s “stop all soda and sugar sweetened drinks,” “walk up and down the stairs, do not use the elevator” or “no more rice with dinner.” Rome wasn’t built in a day. If I overwhelm a parent or child with extreme recommendations, they usually won’t come back. However, if they can actually stop drinking soda for two weeks, they’ll be proud of their accomplishment and get a lot of positive feedback at their next visit with me.
Next time, we look at some of Dr. Hes’s specific tips for parents, and also some suggestions from other experts.
Also recommended are past Childhood Obesity News posts about the various aspects of awareness, and the importance of calling attention to the issue.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,” HealthFinder.gov, 2017
Source: “What I Wish Everyone Knew About Childhood Obesity: A Pediatrician Explains,” MindBodyGreen.com, 03/24/14
Photo credit: William Wootton (wwootton1) via Visualhunt/CC BY