Each month of the year has its own health observations to bring light to the wellness issues that impact our society. With children back in school, September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Growing obesity rates affect 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States, which is three times the prevalence from just one generation ago, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Nearly 32% of children and adolescents are either overweight or obese.

With increasing obesity rates, an increase is seen in related health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Not only are obese children at a higher risk to become obese adults, but the risk factors associated with weight are more likely to be severe. These children also have a higher risk of being the target of bullying, having lower self-esteem and potential depression and behavioral issues.

When parents are busy at work all day, early care and education providers play a critical role in maintaining a child’s health and safety. By modeling healthy eating and physically active lifestyles, early care and education providers can set children on the road to a lifetime of good habits.

To help ensure that children have a healthy weight, parents can make sure children get adequate sleep, follow recommendations on daily screen time, take part in regular physical activity, and eat the right amount of calories. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides fitness information at https://www.hhs.gov/fitness.

No challenge is more urgent than protecting the health and safety of our children – now, and as they grow. The fight against childhood obesity can start in the home, but also requires the support of communities.

The results can last a lifetime. All children deserve a healthy start in life; it’s our responsibility to make that possible.

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