Friday, July 29, 2011

The Need to Address Early Child Obesity

The dialogue on childhood obesity rarely includes infants and toddlers. However, a new report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reveals that almost 10% of children under the age of two carry excess weight and 20% of children between the ages of two and five are already overweight. The report raises a variety of issues around early childhood obesity and provides recommendations for establishing sustainable and healthy lifestyles.

One issue addressed in the report is the importance of early childhood obesity-risk assessments. While states like Louisiana are implementing fitness and body mass index measurements at grade levels, there are few state initiatives addressing assessment for children at earlier ages. Policy measures that address adequate nutrition and health for young children are an important factor in promoting health in later life. Research suggests that an overweight 3-year-old child is nearly 8 times more likely to become an overweight young adult, as compared to a typically developing 3-year-old. Moreover, the lack of access to healthy food and healthcare, often experienced by low-income and poor families, makes them more vulnerable to this trend.

The report also emphasizes the significance of physical activities and nutrition at child care facilities in lessening the risk of excessive weight-gain in children. Wisconsin and Massachusetts are both developing and implementing collaborative statewide multi‐strategy, evidence‐based initiatives to enhance nutrition and physical activity among 2‐5 year olds in child care centers. The Wisconsin Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative (WECOPI), in partnership with the state Department of Health Services, works to support the new federally funded CDC/ARRA physical activity policy project, improve state standards for day care centers and youth programs to promote healthy foods, and strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program meal pattern guidelines, as well as other efforts aimed at providing access to exercise and more affordable, healthy foods.

The IOM report also states that the HHS and USDA’s dietary recommendations—known as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans— do not include recommendations for children under the age of two. The IOM recommends that the DGA provide these guidelines because it is critical that efforts to address childhood obesity and to develop prevention models begin early.

Visit for more information on strategies to prevent childhood obesity and promote access to affordable healthy foods.

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