Four Main Strategies to Improve Health and Fitness of Our Children

By now many people have heard of the new emphasis on child health and the reduction of childhood obesity that is being led by the First Lady of the United States. They have developed a campaign that is focusing on four main strategies to improve health and fitness of our children. Here is a brief summary of the areas of emphasis. An excellent web site provides more in-depth information at LetsMove.gov

1. The first area is called Healthy choices and focuses on providing information to parents. Pediatricians have long known that the most effective way to help children make healthy choices is for them to have seen those same choices modeled day after day in their daily family life. Telling children to eat healthy, stay active and reduce screen time does no good if the family doesn’t practice those same lifestyle habits. The Academy of Pediatrics is participating by encouraging member Pediatricians to talk about these topics at all well child visits. After the age of 2 children should have a score called BMI or Body Mass Index calculated at all well child visits. This is only an indirect measure of children’s health but can be a useful way of tracking weight and health. There are two excellent tools that have been developed on the internet to aid parents. > MyPyramid.gov has a revamped food pyramid developed by the U.S. department of Agriculture. They have also developed an interactive food atlas on which consumers can locate sources of healthier foods such as farmers markets within their own communities.

2. The second area is focused on healthier schools. Many children take up to 50 percent of their total calories during a given day in the school setting. The program seeks to develop rigorous standards for school meal programs as well as incentives to the schools to participate. The input of parents is critical, however, in applying pressure to our schools to provide healthier foods for our kids.

3. Physical Activity. Children need 60 minutes of vigorous activity on a daily basis in order to get and maintain a healthy weight. To put that in perspective, some studies estimate that average 8 to18 year old American kids spend on average 7 ½ hours in front of screen media per day, including TV, computer, cell phones and video games.

4. The fourth area of focus is Accessible and Affordable Healthy Foods. Vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products need to be made as accessible and affordable as the refined, prepackaged, low nutrient foods that are too much a part of the average American diet. This will require significant government involvement as well as a real commitment by consumers to pursue these healthier alternatives.

Further information is available on both the governments’ web site LetsMove.gov as well as the Academy of Pediatrics website aap.org . Please remember to ask questions of us also at your routine well child visits.