POV: Childhood obesity a national concern

The author is the CATCH Healthy Habits community coordinator.

One of the most critical health issues today concerns the growing numbers of overweight and obese children. We often hear this trend referred to as an “epidemic,” which reminds us of the devastating health crises of the last century before Polio and Influenza vaccines were developed. A vaccine to combat childhood obesity may never exist, but there is a program in the Capital Region that parents and kids with weight problems should know about. It’s called CATCH Healthy Habits.

Obesity rates in America have tripled for our children and doubled for older adults in the last 30 years. This means that obesity among children has gone from an average of about 7 percent to 20 percent and in New York State the current rate is even higher. The immediate effect on our children is sobering: 70 percent of these children between the ages of 5 and 17 already have one risk factor for cardiovascular disease or are pre-diabetic. The long-term consequences of obesity are even more alarming and include many types of cancers, stroke, painful osteoarthritis, as well as social and psychological problems.

Parents have a responsibility to help children avoid weight problems and to provide opportunities to learn about leading healthier lives well into their adult years. This means teaching youngsters about making choices that support healthy living including the value of choosing healthy foods and the benefits of being physically active every day.

Parents should not feel alone in their efforts to help children eat healthy and stay active. In Albany, thanks to CATCH Healthy Habits, an intergenerational nutrition and exercise program developed by the OASIS Institute in Saint Louis, Missouri, funded by Empire BlueCross Foundation and sponsored locally by Senior Services of Albany, children can enroll in weekly classes at various youth organization offering the program. The program started in this area in March of this year, but has been available in the Midwest and California since 2011.

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