By Brigadier General W. Bryan Gamble, M.D.
Deputy Director, TRICARE Management Activity
A growing health problem for military children, and for all children in America, is the increasing rate of childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades. Today, nearly one in three children and adolescents in America are overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity has serious consequences as obese children have greater risk of high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and elevated blood sugars. These are risk factors for type-2 diabetes and unaddressed weight issues at an early age often follow children throughout their lives.
The first step in addressing this national concern is to take action as parents to keep our children healthy. It starts with providing your children healthy food options and encouraging physical activity.
Children’s food choices are dependent on what is available at home, school, day care and community centers. Parents can ensure healthy options are available by keeping fruits and vegetables in the kitchen and minimizing the amount of snack foods kids eat daily. Plan regularly scheduled meals and eat together. Also, talk to community leaders, principals and teachers about the importance of providing quality nutrition, physical activity and health education.
Children who get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day are more likely to see an improvement in their overall health. This helps control weight, build muscle, reduce fat, promote strong bones and decrease the risk of obesity.
Here are some steps you can follow at home to encourage healthy lifestyles in your children:
- Limit screen time to one or two hours a day;
- Limit portion size;
- Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables;
- Serve water instead of sugary drinks; and
- Make sure your children get physical activity daily.
- Be an example for your children. Choose to eat healthy foods and stay active.
As we celebrate the Month of the Military Child in April, it is even more important that we emphasize the importance of caring for our children. More than one million children in America have at least one deployed parent and keeping our children healthy plays an important role in the strength and readiness of our Armed Forces.
Learn more about outdoor activities and healthy eating options at www.letsmove.gov. TRICARE offers information on how to get fit and healthy living articles at www.tricare.mil/healthyliving. Find more information from the CDC about childhood obesity at www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm.