Home > September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director

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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director
Childhood obesity has become a national conversation. For the first time in our history, this generation of American children may be sicker and die younger than the generation before it. 
Did you know that one of seven low-income, preschool-aged children is obese? The highest rates of obesity among children aged 2 to 19 years are in Hispanic boys and African-American girls. Childhood obesity is usually caused by eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity. Spending too much time on TV viewing, on the computer, playing video games, using cell phones and watching movies have all contributed to this epidemic.
It’s not just about being “fat” either. Childhood obesity can lead to serious health risks in a short time period such as:
High blood pressure and high cholesterol
Premature heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Asthma complications
Fatty liver disease
Joint pain and premature arthritis
Emotional issues, including low self-esteem and social isolation
While there is no single or simple solution, parents, family members and loved ones can help children by following some of these tips: 
Make healthy eating a family activity 
Include fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your child’s daily meals
Visit websites such as www.choosemyplate.gov for ideas on how to fix your child’s plate.
Switch to fat free or low fat (1 percent) milk for your whole family
Encourage water as a drink of choice instead of sugary drinks (pop, juice)
Limit children’s snacks to one or two daily 
Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days
Reduce screen time with TV, computers and video games to not more than two hours daily

Children ages 3 to 18 with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over the 85th percentile for their age and are considered overweight can receive a minimum of four follow-up visits with their primary care provider (or other health care professional), along with four visits with a registered dietitian through a Highmark preventive health benefit plan. More than 500,000 children now have access to this important care through Highmark. 
Healthy children simply feel better. When children are fit and healthy, they think faster, they can be more creative and they have more confidence. Healthy children are more likely to be healthy as adults. As we recognize the importance of keeping our children healthy this month, it’s valuable to know the reasons why our children are overweight and how we, as adults, can help them lead healthier lives all year long. 
Get involved – take action now. Have your child’s weight checked by your health care provider and if your child is overweight or obese, develop a plan of action that is safe and allows for good nutrition. 
Dr. Rhonda Johnson is the medical director of health equity and quality services at Highmark Inc., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. She leads Highmark’s efforts to reduce racial and ethnic health care disparities among Highmark members through clinical interventions and improvements in health literacy, language access and health-plan cultural competency. 



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