- our children may not outlive us!
It came quickly, with little fanfare, and was
out of control before our nation noticed. Obesity, diabetes,
and other diseases caused by poor diet and sedentary lifestyle
now affect the health, happiness, and vitality of millions of
men, women, and, most tragically, children and pose a major
threat to the health care resources of Canada.
There is evidence to suggest that the generation
of children we’re raising in Canada today may be the first
generation in our history not to outlive their
parents. This mournful statistic is directly and singularly
related to this growing national epidemic: childhood obesity.
Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious
issue with many health and social consequences that often continue
into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting
a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is important
to controlling the obesity epidemic.
An obese child today, has an 80 percent chance of being
an obese adult tomorrow. According to statistics,
300,000 North Americans die each year from complications of
obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.
Many parents are concerned about their child's
weight and how it affects them. They are looking for specific
answers for prevention and treatment options. Unfortunately,
the state of this science is a lot less precise than we would
like. Are kids too concerned about their weight? What are the
best strategies for prevention? What treatments work over a
long time? Researchers are trying to answer those and many other
questions. In many cases, common sense works well.
There are two identifiable culprits that have
made our beautiful children and grandchildren the least healthy
and most overweight kids in our nation’s history: the
standard North American diet and the lack of physical activity.
Statistics show that only a small percentage of our children
play organized sports, while the vast majority spend a lot of
cerebral time surfing the Internet or getting their “action”
from play stations or video games. Our children are not just
couch potatoes, they have taken root in the family room!
When we faced SARS, we fought back. When BST
hit our beef industry we fought back. And now, as childhood
obesity literally threatens the health and longevity of our
children, it’s time to fight back.
I read an article on the Internet about a community in the United
States that has begun to fight back and I like what they did!
How can we, as parents and community leaders, fight this growing
menace of childhood obesity? Any idea must be supported by our
government and by industry. Frankly, they took a good idea and,
turned it into a superb program they called “Count Your
Steps.” Here’s the gist of the simple, yet effective
“Count Your Steps” is a walking program
(with a nutritional component) that targets our children - third
and fourth-graders in public, private and charter schools. Each
student receives a pedometer, the cost of which is underwritten
by donations from local industries. These third-and fourth-grade
students wear the pedometers on their belt for five weeks.
The pedometers record the numbers of steps taken
by each student throughout the day. Parents record the number
of steps in a logbook every night. At the end of each week,
the record is forwarded to a central auditing office. The program
culminates with a “Family Fitness Day Celebration”
where the top five walkers in each class, along with the top
performing classes in each school district, are awarded prizes
for their achievement. (All students who walked and counted
their steps will receive a certificate of participation that
can be proudly displayed.)
A program like “Count Your Steps”
is necessary. According to statistics nearly two out of three
North Americans are overweight or obese — a 50 percent
increase from just a decade ago. The economic cost of obesity
in North America is more than $100 billion annually. It is an
established medical fact that exercise as simple as walking,
coupled with an improved diet, can have a dramatic improvement
on the health of our children.
As chair of Women in Food Industry Management, I am pleased
to report that this association has taken a leadership role
in attacking the problem of obesity and they have been hosting
a series of workshops on healthy lifestyles along with healthy
eating. The speakers are knowledgeable and anxious to share
their resources. Food companies are working towards creating
a new line of food products that are not only healthier, they
taste good! These foods may be more costly, and they may not
have the shelf life of their predecessors, but they will provide
the nutrients we need without the fat or other unhealthy ingredients
currently being brought to our attention.
WFIM is creating a KIDZ Cookbook, partnering with members
and their companies to provide healthy eating recipes. Member
dietitians are providing support to help parents make educated
decisions to ensure the food they feed their children is both
healthy and delicious. The cookbook is the beginning of a campaign
against the unhealthy aspects in some of our foods.
I am encouraging the association to embrace the concept of
the “Count Your Step” program and I have personally
been working with George Brown College to adapt the program
for a Canadian market. The adapted program is called “Step
by Step” and an overview is available here.
For an informative overview of childhood obesity - http://www.epi.umn.edu/let/chldobes.html.