Rise in childhood obesity
This morning I came to work very early because it is the first day of summer camp. Hearing the sounds of the children as they rush through the blue doors at the Boys & Girls Club Centre Street clubhouse is a great way to start a Monday morning. The children are loud and enthusiastic and ready for something exciting to happen.
As a community-based organization, Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County is uniquely positioned to positively affect the lives of the youth we serve. With the rising health issues surrounding childhood obesity, this has become a national crisis and as an organization we are working to address this issue. Today, one-third of American schoolchildren are overweight or obese; in 1960, only four percent of children were obese. African-American girls and Latino girls and boys are disproportionately affected.
Overweight adolescents also have a 70 percent increased risk of becoming overweight or obese adults. Recent data is showing us that childhood obesity has tripled over the last 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–18 year olds who were obese increased from 5 percent to 18 percent over the same period.
Unfortunately, we link obesity to various health-related consequences such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. In a population-based sample of 5- to 18-year-olds, 70 percent of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor while 39 percent of obese children had two or more CVD risk factors.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County believe in addressing these issues impacting today’s children who are participating in less physically active than in previous generations. One study found that children aged 8-18 year olds averaged approximately three hours per day watching TV, videos, DVDs, and movies instead of spending time outside playing and engaging in physical activities. We currently know through information provided by the Center for Disease Control that:
- Only 31.5 percent of students went to physical education (PE) classes five days per week.
- 51.8 percent of students went to PE classes on one or more days in an average week when they were in school.
- Only 15.3 percent of students had eaten vegetables three or more times per day.
- Only 22.4 percent of students had eaten fruit or drank 100 percent fruit juices three or more times per day.
- 12.2 percent of students did not eat for 24 or more hours to try and lose or keep from gaining weight within a 30-day period.
Through participation in our Triple Play curriculum and the addition of our community garden and outdoor learning space, we have an even more profound impact on our community’s youth. The Triple Play program we implement, demonstrates how eating smart, keeping fit and forming positive relationships add up to a healthy lifestyle. The multi-faceted program promotes health and wellness for Club members, ages 6-18 year olds, teaching them how to become more active and new ways to handle stress, maintain a healthy body, and form positive relationships. We provide several avenues in which children can play and get the physical activity they need every day.
Our robust cooking programs help young people learn how to make healthier choices and how that will impact their health. They learn to try different types of food and how to cook with fresh vegetables and fruit. The children go home and show their families what they have learned. The picture displayed was taken at one of our recent cook off’s. The children were given an hour to prepare, cook, and present their meal to the judges.
This year’s theme was breakfast, sweet and savory. The children prepared breakfast items using fresh fruit and, quinoa and oatmeal. Judges from the community came and listened to each team as they presented the meal along with a description of what was in their meal that made it tasty and healthy. By teaching the children how to make healthier choices we can also impact their family.
About the Grantee
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County serves nearly 3000 children in Mercer County with high quality after school programs for youth between the ages of 5- 18 years old.