With one in four children at risk for becoming overweight and one in 10 children already overweight, simple interventions that will have more kids standing in line at their school cafeterias and more pediatricians weighing in on the subject could be the answer, according to a childhood obesity expert from Columbus Children’s Hospital.
Robert Murray, M.D., F.A.A.P., director of the Center for Nutrition and Wellness at Columbus Children’s Hospital, proposes that to combat childhood obesity, greater emphasis should be placed on school-based nutrition policies as well as weight management and nutrition counseling during the recommended 12 well-child visits with the child’s pediatrician. Dr. Murray discussed these strategies and others at the October 20, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.
Dr. Murray suggests using the 12 well-child visits between birth and age 5 to treat obesity with the same level of seriousness and aggressiveness used when promoting child immunizations. Typically during the visits, physicians will monitor a child’s progress on the body mass index (BMI) curve by reviewing dietary habits and basic nutrition with parents. Dr. Murray said keeping children on the BMI curve will prevent the vast majority of adulthood obesity.
Secondly, Dr. Murray recommends developing school-based nutrition policies to maintain a reasonable weight for every child into their adolescent years. According to Dr. Murray, the cost of providing a universal breakfast and lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is minimal compared to the cost of treating the obesity epidemic. Research indicates the positive impact of breakfast and lunch on the academic performance of students. Through the NSLP, children consume twice the servings of fruits and vegetables and greater amounts of grains and dairy.
“Obesity is a pediatric disorder,” Dr. Murray said. “The obese child at age 6 has a 50 percent chance of obesity as an adult, while an obese child at age 10 has a 70-80 percent chance of becoming an overweight adult. We need to optimize interventions that are effective and influence children early in life to prevent obesity in adults.”
Dr. Murray said interventions with children at school and at home will decrease obesity, improve fitness, prevent health problems and achieve Healthy People 2010 goals. Healthy People 2010 is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that challenges individuals, communities, and professionals to take specific steps to ensure that good health is enjoyed by all.