Health Net Helping Give Children a Healthy Start to the New School Year
With children nationwide soon to start a new semester, many parents will begin stocking up on school supplies and mapping out carpool schedules. Health Net, Inc. is reminding moms and dads that their back-to-school to-do lists also should include an inventory of their children’s health, particularly as it relates to childhood obesity. In fact, the seriousness of this issue was underscored just last month, when the American Medical Association approved a policy stating that obesity should be called a disease and not simply a condition.
While obesity negatively affects people of all ages, the medical impact on children and adolescents—because it can carry over into adulthood—is particularly alarming. “According to the American Heart Association, one in three US kids and teens are now overweight or obese,” says Patricia Buss, MD, medical and health care services operations officer for Health Net, Inc. “We know that childhood obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously were considered adult health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, so these health issues can last a lifetime.”
Specifically, the CDC lists the immediate health effects of childhood obesity as:
- *Obese children and teens are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youngsters had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- *Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
- *Youngsters who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social as well as psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
The CDC outlines the following long-term health effects of childhood obesity:
- *Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and osteoarthritis.
- *Being overweight or obese is associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
As Health Net’s Buss points out, “The key to avoiding the negative health impacts of childhood obesity is for parents to help their kids—from an early stage in their lives—maintain the appropriate weight for their height.” Buss explains it was with this goal in mind that Health Net created its Fit Families for Life—Be in Charge! Program. This five-week, home-based family intervention program guides participants toward making better food choices and increasing physical activity. Participants receive a workbook, cookbook, and a DVD that provides nutrition information and easy-to-follow exercise routines.
Further reflecting Health Net’s commitment to curbing childhood obesity, Buss explains that members ages 6 through 20 who have a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile additionally can receive personalized phone support from nutrition nurses or registered dietitians who will help them achieve a healthy weight.
Teens nationwide, both Health Net members and non-members, can access T2X.me. T2X is a health-literacy social website established through a partnership between Health Net, the UCLA School of Public Health, and EPG Technologies that motivates teens to make healthy choices in relation to nutrition, fitness, stress management and substance abuse.
To help its providers care for kids and teens who are at risk for being overweight or obese, Health Net developed the Pediatric and Adolescent Overweight Assessment and Management Guidelines flipchart. This resource outlines the latest tools and practice recommendations for providers who are treating youngsters who are or at risk of being overweight or obese.
Tips for Parents
Experts at the Mayo Clinic offer the following tips for parents who want to help their children reach and maintain a healthy weight:
- *When buying groceries, opt for fruits and vegetables. Always have healthy snacks available, and never use food as a reward or punishment.
- *Limit sweetened beverages, including soda, energy drinks and those containing fruit juice. Healthier choices are water, 1% or fat-free milk, and 100% fruit juice (in moderation).
- *Sit down together for family meals. Avoid eating in front of a screen, such as a television, computer, or video game.
- *Decrease the number of times you eat out, especially at fast-food restaurants.
- *Limit recreational computer and TV time to no more than two hours a day. Other sedentary activities, including playing video and computer games or talking on the phone, also should be limited.
- *Emphasize activity, not exercise. Structured exercise programs aren’t necessary, as the goal is simply to get your youngster moving, and that can be accomplished through traditional childhood activities such as playing hide-and-seek or jumping rope.
- *If you want an active child, be active yourself. Find fun activities that the whole family can do together: consider swimming, hiking, or gardening.
Medical Advice Disclaimer
The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.