Efforts to Reduce Childhood Obesity Working (VIDEO)

Aug 29, 2013

For the first time in a long time, Florida's children aren't getting heavier.

From cover of 'A Community Call to Action to Address Childhood Obesity in Sulphur Springs.'
Credit Tampa Metropolitan YMCA

The Centers for Disease Control credits the drop, at least in part, to First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign. 

Among Florida's low-income preschoolers, obesity rates dropped a full percentage point, from 14.1 percent in 2008 to 13.1 percent in 2011. 

 

"It's a bright spot for our nation's young kids, but the fight is very far from over," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Friedan. "Still, about 1 in 8 preschoolers in the U.S. is obese, with even higher rates among African-American and Hispanic kids. And there are several trends that are favorable that we believe are associated with this."  

The reason childhood obesity is such a concern is not just because of the health issues they experience as children, according to Frieden.

"Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma, and many other health problems both in childhood and adolescence as well as on into adulthood," Frieden said. 

"It's a national epidemic, but even in particularly low-income communities, under-served populations such as the youth in Sulphur Springs, it's a very high problem, but we are here to move the needle on that."

He said preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. 

At the Sulphur Springs YMCA in north Tampa, the national "Let's Move!" campaign is in full effect, and senior program director Saima Qadree said she's noticed slow but steady progress. 

"Obesity, particularly in areas such as Sulphur Springs is a heightened problem," Qadree said. "It's a national epidemic, but even in particularly low-income communities, under-served populations such as the youth in Sulphur Springs, it's a very high problem, but we are here to move the needle on that." 

They teach the importance of, "the five fruits and vegetables per day, no more than two hours of screen time, one hour of physical activity and then almost no or zero sugary beverages."

Over the summer, Qadree brought a group of fourth and fifth graders to Tampa General Hospital for a field trip for More Health's "Are You Heart Smart?" day. The campers did the "Walk-Through Heart” lesson visited the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and toured the Aeromed helicopter. 

"Not only is it exposure to different health fields and potential careers for them, but also an opportunity to learn about active living and healthy behaviors," Qadree said.  

Camper Micah Jones lit up when she talked about the hip hop dance routine the students did right before lunch. She described it as "absolutely crazy fun!"

She said she knows it's not just about fun -- but about keeping her heart healthy, too.

"I was sweating on my face, so it must have been a lot of exercise," Micah said.

 --Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Lottie Watts at 813-974-8705 (desk) or e-mail at lottiewatts@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.