SEPTEMBER is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control states that about one out every five children in the United States has obesity and certain groups of children are more affected than others.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey done with CNMI high school students over a 10-year period had shown a decrease in the rates of obesity, but those rates are once again beginning to rise. Childhood obesity can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Children who have obesity may also face other challenges like bullying and stigma.

According to the CDC, Unhealthy Dietary Behaviors and Physical Inactivity are among the leading causes of Childhood Obesity. So as parents what can we do to help address the problem obesity amongst our children? Below are a few suggestions provided by the CDC that can help prevent obesity and support healthy growth in children:

• To help ensure that children have a healthy weight, energy balance is important. To achieve this balance, parents can make sure children get adequate sleep, follow recommendations on daily screen time, take part in regular physical activity, and eat the right amount of calories.

• Parents can serve children fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks.

• Parents can ensure access to water as a no-calorie alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.

• Parents can help children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day by encouraging them to participate in activities that are age-appropriate and enjoyable.

Addressing childhood obesity can start at home, but also requires the support of our community and programs like the CNMI Non-Communicable Disease Bureau and the Commonwealth Diabetes Coalition. Here at Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc. or NMPASI, we typically encounter adults who are affected with physical impairments, like diabetes and hypertension, while others are affected by mental health issues, like depression, that may be the result of obesity. These disabilities may create barriers to employment, access to services, and community living.

For more information about the prevention of childhood obesity, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/ or you may contact NMPASI at 235-7273/4

GREG BORJA
Projects Specialist 
NMPASI