Advancing Children's Health

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5 ways to help prevent childhood obesity

Published by , on Mar 19, 2013

preventing-childhood-obesityDo I look fat in this? It’s a question we have all asked, or at least thought. As adults we often worry about our own weight, but what about the increasing rate of childhood obesity? While we want to shield children from the reality of our weight-obsessed world; we also want to instill healthy habits as childhood obesity continues to grow at an alarming rate.

In fact, in the U.S. 1 in 3 children (ages 2-19) are now considered overweight or obese, and in the past 30 years childhood obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adults. For children and adolescents, overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) greater than the 85th percentile.  BMI can be calculated using height and weight measurements. The current epidemic we are experiencing is really the result of what many would call a “perfect storm.” Multiple factors at both individual and societal levels are contributing to the increasing trend in weight gain.

Although personal eating decisions and exercise amounts are important, they aren’t the only factors contributing, as the “obesogenic” environment we live in also influences overeating and inactivity. Elements like whether or not community surroundings support an active lifestyle and endocrine disruptors in the environment all have potential effect on the growth of obesity.

And why is it so important to make sure our kids are at a healthy weight? Well, childhood obesity is not only detrimental to a child’s health, causing issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but it can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.

Here is a list of top 5 ways to help your child maintain a healthy weight:


  1. Get the whole family involved in physical activity by taking a family walk or riding bikes together.

  2. Limit fast food intake and plan healthy meals at home.

  3. Read nutrition labels and avoid foods that are high in fat, high in sugar or have artificial ingredients. For example, avoid the empty calories in sugary drinks like soda and juice.

  4. Don’t make desserts or unhealthy snacks off limits; this “forbidden fruit” idea will only increase the temptation. Instead, teach children that they can have treats like candy, just in small amounts.

  5. Keep healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables on hand.


Additionally, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) offers a host of unique services to address childhood obesity. Specifically designed educational efforts in the primary care clinic help train residents about the different methods for prevention and/or effective treatment of obesity. CHoR’s Healthy Lifestyles Center is the only regional facility to integrate research and clinical based methods to assist in the prevention and treatment of obesity and other related health issues. The Center seeks to help adolescents and families develop a healthier lifestyle by focusing on physical activity, what and how to eat and the psychological effects that may contribute to obesity. Since research shows that obesity rates tend to be higher in cancer survivors, the Healthy Lifestyles Center has also teamed up with the pediatric cancer specialists at CHoR to create the long term survivorship program to help ensure that patients who are recovering from cancer live healthy lives.

“CHoR provides a place where Richmond children and teens can go for guidance and support in tackling obesity,” said Dr. Edmond “Trey” Wickham III, from the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at CHoR. “We’re not just treating obesity; we’re preventing a host of other health complications, like Type II diabetes, that are preventable with lifestyle changes. Ultimately, we’re making our community healthier, and hopefully turning the tide on this growing epidemic.”

If you are interested in learning more about the causes of childhood obesity, treatment and prevention options for pediatric and adolescent obesity please join Dr. Wickham on Thursday, March 28 from 6 to 7 p.m. for a free seminar entitled Childhood Obesity: Where Do We Currently Stand? This is one in a series of educational seminars being hosted by CHoR in the Fredericksburg area this year. The continued seminar series features health care topics that are important to children, teens and their parents.

Seminars are free and open to the public, but registration is recommended.

For more information or to register, call (804) 828-0123.

Image courtesy of: Vaxa.com

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