As the new school year begins, it is again time for us to focus on increasing the communities’ awareness of the expertise of the epidemic of obesity. National Childhood Obesity Month is September, and PT’s have a lot to offer as experts in musculoskeletal health and wellness. There are many organizations fighting in this obesity battle and several are highlighted below.
First, the facts:
The financial, physical and emotional costs of childhood obesity are overwhelming. The Centers for Disease Control report that obesity affects 17% of our nation’s youth. (1) In case anyone wonders if this is a significant problem, consider the following:
· Childhood obesity alone is estimated to cost $14 billion annually in direct health expenses. (2)
· Direct and indirect cost is as high as $147 billion annually. (3)
· A CDC study in 2006 reported that 9.1% of medical spending was attributed to direct and indirect costs of childhood obesity. (3)
· Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. (1)
· An obese teenager has an up to 80% chance of becoming an obese adult. (2)
· Overweight and obesity are responsible for a 60% increased risk for a new diagnosis of asthma in adolescents. (2)
· Low Self-Esteem: In a 2003 study, obese children rated their quality of life with scores as low as those of young cancer patients on chemotherapy. (6)
· Obese children are more at risk for fractures and sprains in the lower extremities. (7)
· Children aged 8 – 18 spend, on average, more than 6 hours per day watching televison, playing video games or using other media. (2)
· In 1969, 48% of children, ages 5 to 14, usually walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number is 13%. (5)
· Only 2.1% of high schools, 7.9% of middle schools and 3.8% of elementary schools provide daily physical education. (2)
More PE in school, report recommends (8)
· We are in danger of raising the first generation of American children who will live sicker and die younger than the generation before them. (4)
Our nation struggles with skyrocketing healthcare costs. Consumers are burdening an increased percentage of their personal healthcare costs while providers are targeted with decreases in reimbursement and increases in regulation and oversight. Who are the experts in our communities that can help tackle this epidemic? There are many city and state programs, schools, hospitals and other organizations tackling this issue. Let’s get moving!
An Effective Campaign!
There are many national and statewide campaigns currently underway that are battling the Obesity Epidemic. East Smart, Move More and Project Lean are two such programs that provide information and resources on the state level. Check out Designedtomove.org for a startling discussion of the current problems as well as ideas for change. Get involved! Join or host programs and events in your own communities. Check out the information and opportunities with these campaigns:
At the launch of her Let’s Move! Campaign, Michelle Obama noted, “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.” Regardless which side of the aisle we find ourselves, let’s agree that this campaign is important. LetsMove.gov offers information on the facts about obesity, healthy eating, physical activity and ways to take action. There are great ideas here that you can implement and share with your communities.
Smart Moves for Families
At Moveforward.com, the APTA provides information about the physical therapist’s role in assisting families battling obesity, noting, “Physical therapists’ extensive knowledge of pre-existing conditions (such as type 2 diabetes and obesity) allows them to help people of all ages and abilities establish life-long patterns of physical activity.” The site offers tips for parents such as:
*Plan weekend family activities involving physical activity, such as hiking, swimming, bicycling, mini-golf, tennis, or bowling.
*Help your child plan physical activities with friends and neighbors, such as skating or softball.
*Have your kids brainstorm a "rainy day" game plan of indoor activities involving fitness games such as Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution.
*Remember that your family does not need to join a health club or buy fancy equipment to be active. Walking isn't costly and it's easy. So is designing a backyard obstacle course. Weights can be made from soda or detergent bottles filled with sand or water!
Saferoutesinfo.org states their purpose as “connecting the trip to school with Safety, Health, Community and Choice.” Their website provides a national map with links for each state on safe walk to school routes. They highlight events such as National Bike to School Day and International Walk to School Day, which will occur in October. The site gives information on how to organize a program and funding opportunities.
What can you do? Partner with the right organizations as this will increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your efforts. The Department of Health in each state will have programs targeted at improving the health of their residents. Many will have obesity programs in place, such as Alabama’s Obesity Task Force and the Michigan Healthy Weight Partnership. The Michigan Department of Community Health notes that over 50 state, local, public and private organizations assisted with the creation of the state plan. Want a seat at the table? Look for opportunities in your state.
How Businesses can help: “Action Items”
· Provide links on your website to state and local organizations providing obesity programs.
· Provide information to your employees on healthy eating habits and physical activity guidelines. RI Department of Health offers an example their Eat Smart, Move More site, http://www.health.ri.gov/publications/brochures/EatSmartMoveMore.pdf.
· Highlight weekly physical activities on your facebook page in which individuals or families can participate.
· Partner with a local nutritionist and provide a lecture at your business on healthy eating habits and physical activity.
· Highlight various organizations that are offering afterschool physical fitness programs.
· Volunteer to be a monitor for International Walk to School Day for your local school. If your school does not have this program, partner with local educators and business leaders to implement the walk.
Childhood obesity affects the health and economy of our entire nation. Many opportunities exist for individuals and businesses to help provide solutions to this epidemic, partner with their community and spread a positive message of health and wellness.
Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS is the Co-Owner of Olympic Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, Inc., with five locations in Rhode Island specializing in rehabilitation and sports performance. Olympic PT combines expertise in biomechanics with knowledge of how the body works as an entire chain to provide the right care to decrease pain and improve function. Our practice was recognized with The Newport Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award in 2007. For more information, visit http://olympicpt-ri.com. Don can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(4) Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, et al. “A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century.” New England Journal of Medicine,