Welcome back to school! Your kid is fat! It is a disgusting statement, but with the implementation of September as our first-ever National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, what else are we left to conclude? This nation’s childhood obesity epidemic is probably the largest threat to the future of our healthcare system. For this reason, the medical community, academic organizations, media and politicians have been enthralled with the topic. Even First Lady Michelle Obama has taken on this cause as her signature issue.
She has spearheaded a task force to raise awareness and provide solutions to lesson the impact of this growing epidemic. Despite the good intentions, these initiatives are misguided at best.
All the media jargon of this special month has focused on the symptom and not the problem. To suggest that we can have healthy kids without healthy adults is ridiculous. Are we now to look to our children for guidance on behavior? The real epidemic is not of childhood obesity, but of overweight adult role models.
As parents and adults we need to take responsibility for the outcomes of our choices. If you haven’t noticed, children of healthy and active parents tend to be healthy and active. Conversely, children of inactive and overweight parents tend to be inactive and overweight. Study upon study supports my anecdotal claim.
“If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that the children will also be obese. However, when both parents are obese, the children have an 80 percent chance of being obese.”
- Obesity In Children And Teens, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, May 2008
“The factor that puts children at greatest risk of being overweight is having obese parents.”
- Stanford University of Medicine researchers
Instead of putting the spotlight on overweight and obese children, our politicians should spearhead a war on obese adults. Our First Lady is the perfect spokesperson and role model for families struggling with balancing work, family life, exercise and healthy eating. Unfortunately, rather than meaningful incentives and results-oriented initiatives, her signature issue has treated us to a litany of finger pointing, political rhetoric and tongue-lashings on video games, junk food and inactivity. We owe it to our children not to trivialize this epidemic with a once-a-year, feel-good, nationally recognized awareness month that will simply be forgotten in October with National Dessert Month. (Yes! October is National Dessert Month.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Direct costs from obesity exceed $150 billion annually.” This staggering statistic combined with the recent intense battles over healthcare suggests that now is the time for action. However, what we need is not good intensions. We need meaningful action targeted at the problem and focused on results. Today, healthy people are footing the bill for the unhealthy and children are paying the price for the bad behaviors of their parents. This is the first-ever National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Let’s do all we can to make it our last!
Anthony G. Barnes is the club owner at Anytime Fitness in Chester and holds a degree in sports medicine and exercise science. To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org