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CHAMP Kids: Battling the childhood obesity epidemic locally

A course teaches children and their parents the concepts of a healthy lifestyle to combat obesity.

It’s no secret that childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in our state and our nation. This serious problem has tripled in the span of just one generation. Childhood obesity has received national and global attention, but 1 in 3 children are still falling into the category of obese, and almost half of Hispanic children in Texas are obese. Obese children have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults. We have seen an increase in this epidemic locally as well, and changes need to be made before today’s obese children become tomorrow’s obese adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that obesity during childhood can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breathing difficulties, joint and musculoskeletal problems, gastroesophageal reflux disease, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions have the potential to worsen and become more serious in adulthood.

Health complications are the No. 1 concern in obese children, but medical expenses and academic productivity are also issues. Reports from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts reveal the cost of adult obesity. By 2005, adult obesity was already costing Texas businesses $3.3 billion annually, and if current trends in health care costs and obesity continue, that number could reach a staggering $32.5 billion by 2030. On an individual basis, children who become obese adults face medical expenses 42 percent higher than those of healthy-weight adults. On an academic level, research has also shown a correlation between obese children and lower grades and increased absences.

Taking action

These statistics are dismal. But what can we do to combat them in our community?

CHAMP (Choosing Health & Activity Maximizing Potential) Kids is a new course offered through Shannon and taught by a registered dietitian specializing in children’s needs. Geared toward obese children, the objective of this course is to teach children and their parents the concepts of a healthy lifestyle to combat obesity.

Patients are referred to the CHAMP Kids course by their pediatrician. Throughout the duration of the two-class series, children and their parents will learn about the consequences of obesity during childhood as well as diet and lifestyle factors that lead to obesity.

Participants will also learn how to make successful lifestyle changes by learning correct portion sizes, how to read labels, tips for increasing daily activity and encouragement techniques. The class also includes a grocery store tour, where attendees will learn how to correctly navigate the often tricky aisles of the store to identify healthful options that still taste delicious.

Help at home

Keep the numbers five, two, one and zero in mind each day to help your kids lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Five servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended each day. Limit your child’s screen time—television, computer and handheld devices—to two hours a day. Children need at least one hour of physical activity a day. The number of sugar-sweetened beverages should be zero.

The best characteristic of childhood obesity is that it’s preventable. We do not want this generation to have a shorter lifespan, as predicted. We want to help these children while they are still young; teach them how to slow their weight gain; and educate them on a healthy, active lifestyle that is fun and beneficial for many years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about CHAMP Kids or childhood obesity, call Christina Thomas, RD, LD, at 325-657-8228

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