Help fight the epidemic of childhood obesity

by Capt. Samantha Campbell 86th Medical Operations Squadron

We are a society of innovation, technology and progress. With endless resources literally at our fingertips, childhood obesity is still an epidemic problem we face.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three children in the U.S. is diagnosed with obesity. Childhood obesity is measured by determining if the child is above the healthy weight for his or her age and height.

Childhood obesity has been on the rise over the past 30 years. While obesity can be the result of either genetic or behavioral traits, we need to focus on the behavioral component we can control.

Unhealthy food choices and large portion sizes can be heavily blamed for the rise in childhood obesity. In this day and age, and with the busy lifestyles we lead, it is often easier to make unhealthy choices than it is to make healthy ones. Years ago, kids used to walk to and from school, and now they ride the bus or take a car.

According to, children are now snacking up to six times more than children 30 years ago, and we are eating 31 percent more calories per day than we were 40 years ago.

The CDC reports that childhood obesity is associated with several health risks that are both immediate and long term. The immediate effects include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and asthma as well as social and psychological problems. The long-term effects can include obesity into adulthood, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

Consequently, the CDC specifically states that obesity may lead to an increased risk of the following cancers: breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In addition to the physical health risks related to obesity, social discrimination is an equally serious risk that can cause psychological stress potentially leading to low self-esteem. According to, this lack of confidence and poor self-image has the ability to hinder academic and social functioning and progress into adulthood.

We are continuously reminded on TV and social media of ways to increase daily activities and eat healthy. On the other hand, TV ads can also make unhealthy food choices and snacks look appealing to children. Here are some helpful tips and tricks in order to keep your children, and yourself, fit to fight childhood obesity:

• Limit electronic entertainment, TV, games, computer, etc., to two hours each day

• Schedule at least one hour of physical activity a day for everyone

• Take mealtime family time at least two or three times a week

• Be a good role model for your children

• Be creative; find ways to cook healthy meals your picky kids will love

Keep in mind that it is easier to establish and maintain healthy behaviors as a child than it is to change unhealthy behaviors as an adult.

It is our duty as parents and guardians to protect our children and lead them in the right direction. It is our duty to provide them with the correct tools to build a bright future, and it is our duty to reverse the growing percentage of obese children in our nation and change the direction our society is headed.