September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month! In 2010, President Obama marked this month as a time to highlight the need for action to help children combat obesity through proper nutrition and daily exercise. The First Lady introduced Let’s Move, an initiative to provide helpful information to parents and foster environments that encourage children to make healthy choices. There has been quite a bit of energy around the issue of childhood obesity, which despite research, recommendations and overall awareness, continues to be a problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that people who are obese as children will most likely become obese adults and will be prone to lifelong physical and mental health problems including heart disease and diabetes. Obese children face more bullying and stigma issues than children at a healthy weight. Prevention of obesity is still the most important treatment!
Many of us hail as both APRNs and parents so we know the challenges that we face to maintain healthy eating habits, continue regular exercise, and encourage our children to do the same. However, these challenges can’t compare to those faced by children who live in areas where it is not safe to be outside and healthy foods are the most expensive.
When my daughter wanted to lose weight in high school, I began running with her to help her gain a position on the cross-country team. Now as an avid runner, I put aside time several days a week to participate in my favorite pastime, but it usually involves the sacrifices of getting up very early or scheduling races on days off to make sure that I can meet my goals. Children depend on parents and/or adults to guide them to appropriate exercise habits. Our local running group includes young children, who truthfully run much faster than me, and are always encouraged to start at the front of the line. They certainly get much more applause when they succeed! In my community, being a part of the youth cross-country team is an honor, and children are very excited to participate. The program teaches them the importance of physical fitness and teamwork and allows them to excel among their peers. Girls on the Run, another running-based forum for children, is a national outlet for encouraging exercise and learning self-esteem. This program, piloted in 1996 with 13 girls, now hosts approximately 168,000 girls in over 225 cities across the country. The program brings girls, ages 8 – 16, together to make new friends, build confidence and explore their uniqueness. At the end of each 12-week group session, the girls participate in a 5k encouraging them to learn physical fitness routines while developing other life skills.
I can expound on the benefits of running, but I know that there are many other physical activities that benefit children, like swimming, biking and playing on a soccer or field hockey team. As parents and professionals, we are committed to family motivation first, then reaching out to neighbors, friends and, notably, our patients to educate them on the importance of healthy living. If you check out the Let’s Move website (http://www.letsmove.gov), you can find many recommendations for keeping children and their families healthy. The NAPNAP website: www.napnap.org/co, provides more information about the obesity epidemic through resources from the Childhood Obesity special interest group (SIG).
You can join in discussions and learn more about childhood obesity and other important topics through NAPNAP’s e-communities, now known as the Team Peds: Member Network. There are now many more options to become involved than you may have known about before! As part of Team Peds, you can use the latest discussion forum technology to communicate with members of your chapter or SIG about key issues affecting your patients and practice, share resources and information with your network and find members via our member directory. There are communities for each SIG and chapter and a discussion board you can browse daily to see what is new! Go to community.napnap.org/home to learn the latest news, upload helpful materials for your fellow APRNs, or perhaps find some interesting literature to read. Whatever your professional role, you will gain new insights and connection with your peers through the Team Peds: Member Network. Log on today!