Family Ties - Parents share blame for childhood obesity - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Family Ties - Parents share blame for childhood obesity

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Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2005 7:56 am | Updated: 7:25 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A kindergartner walks into San Marcos Family Resource Center in Chandler and tips the scales at more than 100 pounds.

A mother and her teenage daughter are put on a diet and exercise plan that includes gradually increasing their physical activity until they are walking 14 minutes after the first week.

A child brought to the clinic for a sports physical is found to have blood pressure so high he’s at risk for a heart attack and requires daily monitoring.

"We have had a number of children who are literally off the charts for weight," says Susan Horan, project director for the resource center.

During a time when the well-being of America’s children is improving in a variety of critical areas, we still haven’t figured out how to get them to eat healthy and exercise.

A new study from the Foundation for Child Development shows that compared to 10 or 20 years ago, young people are having fewer babies, are less likely to use drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and are far less likely to be the perpetrators or victims of crime.

Researchers credit several things, including their parents.

Today’s youth, however, are far more likely to be overweight or obese. The obesity rate among children 6 to 17 has tripled since 1975 to nearly 16 percent, and along with it has come increases in childhood diabetes and heart disease.

For this, parents also need to take some of the credit.

This isn’t new stuff. Everyone from the surgeon general to the school nurse has been shouting about it for years. Eating healthy and staying active are no-brainers, right?

Not necessarily. Sure, for lots of us, we know what to do and we choose not to do it. But there’s a whole bunch of people who really don’t know better.

And so they are unwittingly sending their children to early graves.

They put Kool-Aid into baby bottles. They think french fries are vegetables. They use food as a behavior modification technique or a love supplement. And they don’t see their children as obese or unhealthy.

"It’s very unintentional. Food is often equated with love," says Horan. "But it’s a dangerous habit to get into."

So the Chandler clinic is urging parents to take control of their refrigerator, their dinner table and their TV set. To take control of what they serve their children and what they allow them to eat. And to serve as role models for their kids in both diet and exercise.

Since that hasn’t been working, "Sesame Street" this season is taking the case straight to the kids.

"Sesame Street" tackles children’s health as well as the ABCs and 123s when the new season kicks off Monday, in response to the growing crisis of childhood obesity. Healthy habits will be infused throughout the PBS program, from sports and entertainment figures starring in "Healthy Moment" skits to Telly and Rosita doing the Mango Tango. Kids can sing songs about carrots and do stretching with Slimey the worm.

"There is a real need to educate young people, and their caregivers, about healthy lifestyles," Rosemarie Truglio, a Sesame Workshop vice president, said in a press release. "Who better to guide preschoolers toward a healthier life than Elmo, Oscar, Big Bird and the rest of the gang on ‘Sesame Street’?"

Who better indeed. Maybe the kids will learn something, then teach it to their parents.

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