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Changing Our Child’s Environment One Carpool at a Time

Fat Town

Interested in the how behavioral and environmental factors influence the diet of a preteen? These slides compiled by the National Initiative for Children’s Health Care Quality demonstrate how these factors affect obesity in our communities.

Everyone knows there is a childhood obesity epidemic in America.  And, like most things that are as widespread as childhood obesity, it may feel that there is nothing that we can do influence a positive change.  Just like with environmental issues, we can all make a difference in our own communities and social networks by thinking globally and acting locally.

We can begin to look at our social norms and customs and evaluate whether they may be negatively contributing to the obesity epidemic in our community.  For example, does your pediatrician always give your child a lollipop after each appointment?  What message is this sending to our children, since pediatricians are supposed to be good role models and advocate for good nutrition?  Is your preschool serving a rotating menu of macaroni & cheese and French fries?  When it is not your turn to drive, are your carpool partners giving chips and sodas as snacks?

It is important to realize that many things in our community impact childhood obesity.  Are our neighborhoods safe for our children to play?  Are our playgrounds in good repair? Do we have convenient access to fruits and vegetables?  Are snacks expected at city recreation sports leagues and, if so, are healthy snacks served?  What are kids being fed at daycare or school, and how can we make sure they have access to healthy foods?  Can we hold a fruit and vegetable sale instead of a bake sale?

The obesity epidemic will be solved by a nationwide paradigm shift, but we can all make a huge difference in our own environments by being aware and engaged.  On September 25 and October 6, I will be presenting to groups of healthcare providers to educate them about how they can use their voice to impact policy changes in government, workplaces, and their own communities to help reverse the childhood obesity trend.  I also encourage each of you to be aware, and speak up for small changes in our communities.  Our community’s paradigm shift can take place one lollipop, carpool and bake sale at a time.

Betsey Tilson, MD, is the Medical Director of Community Care of Wake and Johnston Counties.