September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, and for the first time in many years, there is cause to celebrate…but only a little bit. After a long period of steady annual increases since the year 2000, we have finally begun to see incidence, or number of new cases, of childhood obesity leveling off. This is good news and demonstrates that targeted public health education initiatives and legislation like Michele Obama’s “2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” have started to increase awareness about the long-term perils of obesity in children. Yet, the urgency to see a reduction (and not just a leveling) of these numbers remains a top priority, as children diagnosed with obesity are projected to experience a lower quality of life, reduced work productivity and shorter life spans than previous generations.
Today, one out of every three children are obese in this country, and diseases typically seen in adulthood are developing in younger and younger generations. From a medical perspective, being overweight or obese complicates all biologic processes. This is especially true as it relates to increased infection risk, reduced immune function and recovery, an increased need for pharmaceuticals, and costly medical procedures, creating unsustainable conditions long into the future. So, how do health professionals and communities raise the level of urgency, inspire action and make a lasting impact towards reversing this health challenge?