Childhood Obesity Prevention

January 12, 2012 by staff 

Childhood Obesity PreventionChildhood Obesity Prevention, According to Bristol-Myers Squibb, diabetes affects about 26 million people in the U.S. alone. 7 million of those people are undiagnosed with the disease, and an additional 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic, meaning their current lifestyle choices are potentially leading them to the illness. As a country, our health is not in great shape.

In order to address these issues of obesity, healthy eating, accessibility of fresh and wholesome food and proper exercise, the George Street Playhouse hosted a conference on Wednesday – “Spotlight on Childhood Obesity and Wellness”.

Free to parents, educators and health professionals, the conference featured a premiere performance of the Playhouse’s new touring production of “Austin the Unstoppable,” a teaching musical aimed at students in grades 4 through 8 that stages a family abruptly facing type II diabetes and the subsequent changes they must make to improve their health.

Mary O’Dowd, state Commissioner of Health, was the featured keynote speaker, and a panel discussion was held, featuring health, exercise and food experts, including Lisanne Finston, executive director of the New Brunswick-based anti-hunger organization Elijah’s Promise, Christine Dewitt-Parker, a registered nurse and coordinator with the state Department of Education, Rutgers University nutritional sciences associate professor Nurgul Fitzgerald, Rowan University health and exercise science professor James McCall and Peri L. Nearon, director of the state Office of Nutrition and Fitness.

According to O’Dowd, 15 percent of school-age children in New Jersey are obese.

Additionally, 17.3 percent of low-income children between the ages of 2 to 5 in New Jersey are also obese. This is one of the highest obesity rates for children of this age group in the U.S, she said.

O’Dowd stressed the importance of long-term steps being taken to improve child health, as diabetes is not the only risk associated with obesity, she said.

An unhealthy life style early on can lead to liver disease, joint problems, sleep apnea and asthma, she said.

Despite the sobering numbers, it’s not all bad news.

New Jersey is actually one of the more progressive states in the U.S. in terms of banning sugary drinks and junk food from schools, O’Dowd said.

Additionally, federal grant money has made it possible for schools to apply to the state to have a salad bar put in in their cafeteria to increase their healthy food options, O’Dowd said.

Additionally, the focus on educating kids about health has changed. In the past, it was all about educating the individual, but that mindset has shifted to a community model in which everyone should be on board for greater results, she said.

That includes schools, parents, kids and the greater community, going as high as local government.

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