How Can We Prevent Childhood Obesity?

We asked iVillagers what concerned communities can do about the dangerous rise of child obesity in our country, and the message boards lit up with responses. Most agreed that health starts at home, by making good eating habits a priority for everyone in the household — parents included. (Read iVillagers' Top 10 Tips for Helping Kids Eat Better.) As one iVillager put it, "You can tell your kids, 'Eat your veggies and go play,' but if you yourself are sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, they're not going to learn the right lesson." For more ideas about how we can combat child obesity in our homes, schools and communities, read on.


Instead of hiring people to mow and rake our lawns, shovel our drives, maintain our pools and so on, we should be employing our own children and working as families. Allow kids the opportunity to feel the satisfaction of caring for their own property, being part of a team and working hard.


I'd like to see more wellness programs targeted at family (not just individual) participation, at workplaces and schools. For example, some companies offer a discount on healthcare costs to employees who have fitness club memberships; this kind of program could be extended to cover family membership costs.


Work with your community to create user-friendly infrastructure in your streets and parks: In our area of town, for instance, there are no sidewalks or bike paths!


Breastfeed! Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Centers for Disease Control's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, says this is one of their No. 1 strategies. Babies that are breastfed are less likely to become obese children and adults.



Find a proactive pediatrician. Pediatricians need to be less afraid of offending the parents and more concerned with the health of the child. If a child is gaining too much weight, the pediatrician should insist on a dietician's consultation — and parents should be willing to follow the recommendations of their doctors.

Encourage younger children to walk, instead of always pushing them in the stroller. I've even seen four- and five-year-olds in strollers! They may be easier to control this way, but it doesn't help their physical development.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm not opposed to "sin taxes" (like the ones on liquor and cigarettes) for those processed foods that are really bad for us. I think it's going to take that level of concerted effort, by all of us.

Even if schools can't completely overhaul what they feed the students, maybe they can offer a combo meal that gives discounts for healthier choices — say, if a student buys a healthy lunch, then they're rewarded with a discount on a soda or a cookie.

I think it's going to be an uphill battle until business gets involved. It's ridiculous to have soda and snack vending machines in schools. Who came up with that bright idea? Was it the corporations or the school districts?

Kids need physical education at school, and we can't let school funding for it slip away. But also, communities need to provide children with low-cost recreational activities. In our community, after the fourth grade, only those kids who try out and make the team can participate in sports, reducing the opportunities for the kid who just wants to play for fun.


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Share your ideas for preventing obesity in children.


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