In America, more than 23 million children and teenagers are obese or overweight. Childhood obesity results in $14 billion per year in direct health care costs. One-third of our children are at greater risk of heart disease, bone and joint problems and sleep apnea. Being overweight can also contribute to psychological problems and bullying. During childhood and adolescence, academic performance and social success can be hindered. These impacts can continue into adulthood.
About 80 percent of obese children will grow up to be obese adults, compounding the problem and making them more at risk for health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis. Throughout the life span, Americans spend approximately 9 percent of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses.
In an effort to increase awareness, prevent childhood obesity and save billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, September has been designated as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The program promotes healthier lifestyles to improve and prolong the lives of the next generation of Americans. Protecting the health and well-being of American children for years to come is extremely important. Parents and other adults must ensure that children receive a healthy start in life. Childhood obesity is entirely preventable if all family members participate in physical activity and practice healthy eating habits. It’s up to adults to encourage these healthy habits by being good role models.
LSU AgCenter has restructured its Family and Consumer Sciences programming to focus on the prevention of childhood obesity. Although September is National Childhood Obesity Month, extension agents and nutrition educators present a variety of nutrition education programs to youth and families year round. All Richland Parish Head Start students participate in a monthly nutrition education program, Health, Happy Me. Approximately 300 junior high students are also receiving monthly nutrition education lessons. Adults can participate in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in monthly in-home sessions and other group meetings. For more information about LSU AgCenter’s nutrition education programs, contact our office at 318-728-3216.