Parental Responsibility: A Recipe for Addressing Childhood Obesity

Friday, October 28th, 2005
This post was written by Melanie Matthews

Childhood obesity – it’s in the newspapers, on the radio, on TV and yet parents still are not driving home the need and the ingredients for proper nutrition with their children.

My five-year-old daughter is playing soccer this fall. At a recent game, the self-appointed team mom brought the kids some half-time treats – juice boxes, cupcakes and single serving bags of cookies. While her intentions were good – providing something special for the kids – she actually did the kids a disservice.
The kids didn’t play a decent second half because of this “treat” – not that the game is very competitive at this beehive stage, but they were loaded down with carbs and sugar.

Thankfully, the coach found a tactful way to tell the mother that while her efforts were appreciated, water and orange slices might be a better alternative than sweets during a soccer game.

While chaperoning my daughter’s class trip a few days later, I was amazed at the lunches that the parents packed for their children. One little boy in the class had a lunch that consisted of a single serving package of potato chips, a bag of carton character cookies, a snack bag of sugar cereal and a candy bar – I guess for dessert. Several of these kindergarten kids had cans of soda with their lunches.

On another recent occasion, I stopped for a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. I stood in line behind a family of four. The two children in this family – in the seven to nine age range — were ordering frozen coffee drinks.

While these three incidents should not have amazed me given the statistics on childhood obesity, they still did. In HIN’s report, Childhood Obesity: Truths, Trends & Program Design, we provide an overview of how far reaching this epidemic is — more than 9 million overweight American children and adolescents—triple the number identified in 1980. This report also looks at the type of programs that healthcare organizations are launching to address childhood obesity.

My lesson learned – despite the fact that schools, communities, health plans and provider organizations are launching programs to address childhood obesity, nothing will address this epidemic as much as educational programs aimed at parents.

The impact of educational programs aimed at parents could even have a two-pronged effect – better nutritional habits for both parents and for kids, which might go a long way in reducing the rate of obesity and its comorbidities across the whole population.

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