By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
Did you know?
- 23.8 percent of Black children ages 12-19 years old are overweight, compared to 14.6 percent of Caucasian the same age, and
- Approximately 17 percent (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years old are obese – triple the rate from just one generation ago.
(Percentages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Scary, right? Well, September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and this month it is time to become aware and take action. There is no doubt that childhood obesity has become a serious public health issue that puts millions of our sons and daughters at risk for so many other health problems in the future. In the last four decades, childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 to 11 years old. Today in America, one in three children is overweight and one in six is considered obese. Obesity puts our children at early risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke. Even greater disparities exist among young Hispanics and the African-American communities. As obesity and diseases related to obesity continue to increase among minorities, our community has the opportunity to make a difference before this problem really gets out of control.
These startling statistics highlight why childhood obesity is making national and local headlines. Politicians, professional athletes, and community advocates are increasing the awareness to make sure we know about this issue and inspire ways to help fix the problem.
“September marks the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a time for us to encourage America’s children to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime,” wrote U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a prepared statement.
The Basics of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is measure by body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by using a child’s weight and height. Body composition varies from child to child, age, and boys and girls, but a child should still be at a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and physically active.
Simply put, childhood obesity is the result of eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity. American society has become characterized by environments that promote fast food and video games. Children are spending more time in front of the computer and television than outside playing, like the good ol’ days. Eating healthy has become harder with cheap deals and those gravitating commercials on television.
Take a stand on childhood obesity, not only for the month of September, but from now on. Encourage your child, or children in your neighborhood, to get up and get active. Find great meals that have good nutritional value, and as a parent/guardian, get active as well. If you are out and about and being active, your child will be too. You can never go wrong with establishing healthy lifestyles in your child. And, the best time is to start young and continue until your child is out of the house. The habits you instill at home over the years will transpire until they are adults.
The new school year has just begun, so it is a great time to reinforce the need for healthy eating habits and exercise. It not only starts at home with teaching children to live a healthy lifestyle, but also in the schools, workplaces, stores, community centers, anywhere. During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it is all about working together to help the effort.
First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move! national initiative to help solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. And locally, Mayor Dwight C. Jones has launched the Healthy Richmond Campaign to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors and to actively engage the Richmond community.
Currently in the United States, 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent. Recess and physical education is just as important as Math or Science. For a child to learn, they must have an active mind, and eating right and being physically active are both critical components of being successful in the classroom.
Sports Backers, the Richmond area’s principal non-profit sports advocate, offers a free incentive-based fitness program for elementary school-aged children in the metro Richmond area. For more information, please visit: www.sportsbackers.org.
“It is a fun and easy way for teachers and parents to get kids moving!” says Kids Run RVA Coordinator, Cheryl Lockett-Oliver.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that children between the ages of six and 17 years of age should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity on a daily basis. It is time to take action in your own home and community. Increasing children’s physical activity may reduce their risk of developing diseases later in life and can improve their social and psychological well-being. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that people in the U.S. consume more healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat products. Similarly, individuals should work to limit foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar.
Black Girls RUN! and You Can Too
In 2009, Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created Black Girls RUN! in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community. The mission of Black Girls RUN is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. In 2010, Black Girls RUN! launched more than 60 Black Girls RUN! running groups across the nation. The groups range from walkers to the most experienced runners, in hopes to educate African-American women about health and fitness and provide a support system to help them reach their goals. The group now has 70 groups and over 40,000 members. To be a BGR! member and sign up for the group online you must be 18 years old; however, members are encouraged to bring their kids to participate and be active as well.
“I was four pounds from 300 and that was a problem. I maintained the habits that my family taught me growing up. That was the culture of our community, the norm. I’ve been pushing and praying for a BGR group to come to Richmond. I’m still on my journey. I’m not the fastest but with a BIG push from my co-worker at the Y, I finished my first half-marathon in November 2011.” comments Lisa Winn, Lead Ambassador for BGR! Richmond and Director of Association Annual Giving for YMCA Richmond.
The movement, that started in New York City, has become a nationwide phenomenon. The highlight of BGR! is definitely seeing how many lives are being impacted in a positive way.
Black Girls RUN! Richmond has just launched in the metro Richmond area and would like to invite all women to join them for their first official BGR! Richmond Walk/Run and Meet & Greet on Sunday, September 23 at the Northside YMCA (4207 Old Brook Road). The group will meet promptly at 2:30 p.m.
“Come as you are. No matter if you walk or run, there is no woman left behind.” comments JayEll Vaughn, Lead Ambassador for Richmond and Public Relations Director for Black Girls RUN!.
The BGR! Richmond group will hold monthly walk/runs until November, and then begin weekly group runs around the metro Richmond area. All fitness levels are welcomed. For more information, join the Richmond group on www.blackgirlsrun.com.
No matter if you are 5 years old or 55 years old, we all have a part to play in making sure our next generation and the generations to follow are healthy. Investing in a healthier community will ensure our future is bright. For more information and to learn how you can get involved for National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, visit: www.healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org.