What Our Children’s Future Really Looks Like
Meet “Jim.” At 32, Jim suffers a heart attack and lies dying on an ER table due in part to years of unhealthy choices. As an adult, he makes his own decisions about what to eat and how much activity to get—however, he learned many of his behaviors as a child.
While Jim is merely a character in a dramatization, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), his story is hardly an exaggeration of the future our children are facing. If things don’t change today, expect to see a 2030 news headline that reads:
This Year Obesity-Related Health Costs Top $66 Billion
25 Million Americans Have Type 2 Diabetes, 27 Million Have Chronic Heart Disease, and
68 Million Have Hypertension as the Result of Years of Unhealthy Behaviors and Excessive Weight
If Jim’s ER visit takes place in 2030, the tipping point for this epidemic, he would still be a kid today. That means the ominous ER visit doesn’t have to be the way Jim’s story ends; there’s still time to change his future. Likewise, that 2030 headline doesn’t have to be our country’s future; together we can not only reverse, but prevent, the health implications facing so many children today. This is the message Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country and leader in addressing and treating childhood obesity, hopes people take away from Jim’s journey.
Georgia has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the nation (nearly a million overweight or obese children), and according to the CDC’s trajectory, the state is on a path to an obesity rate of 53.6 percent by 2030; the highest the state has ever seen. Children’s has a unique understanding of the struggles parents in the state face when it comes to the health and wellness of their families, thanks to extensive behavioral research they commissioned in 2011 and 2012. With that knowledge, Children’s Strong4LifeSM movement, which helps families fight childhood obesity and live healthier lives, created Jim’s journey to make these daunting statistics relatable.
“All parents hope their children grow into happy and healthy adults, but hoping alone won’t make that a reality, which is why we’re lucky to have the opportunity to take small steps today that can ensure their future outlook will be both happy and healthy,” said Dr. Stephanie Walsh, Medical Director, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ”While Jim’s story may be a fictional version of the worst-case scenario, the scenes shown are very real examples of what my colleagues and I hear from our patients, habits we hope parents will see, identify with and, when ready, take steps to alter.”
Unlike a lot of programs and sites that assume that parents and families are ready for change today, Strong4Life acknowledges that change is complex. This is why they seek to reach families regardless of where they are on their journey to readiness for change. Along with Dr. Walsh, Strong4Life’s doctors, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, behavioral psychologists, and wellness experts help parents address the barriers they face while getting their family on a healthy path. From prevention to clinical intervention, Strong4Life is there with the information, tools, and support parents need to get and keep their family healthier and stronger.
Research shows that providers are the leading voice parents turn to for advice regarding their child’s wellness and obesity-related issues. In an effort to improve the conversation between doctors and patients, Children’s leveraged their expertise by creating the Strong4Life Provider Training Program for healthcare professionals in the state. By the end of 2013, Strong4Life will have trained more than 2,000 pediatric providers in Georgia (including close to half in metro Atlanta). This is one of many ways that Strong4Life has been in the community reaching families through schools, community partnerships, and policy change efforts, as well as working with Gov. Nathan Deal who has shown a continued commitment to the health of Georgia’s kids.