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Ways to Curb Childhood Obesity Outlined in U.S. Report

THURSDAY June 23, 2011 -- Strategies to encourage physical activity, healthy eating and good sleep habits are needed to reduce high rates of obesity among infants, toddlers and preschoolers in the United States, says an Institute of Medicine report released Thursday.

Limiting children's TV time is a key recommendation.

Rates of excess weight and obesity among U.S. children ages 2 to 5 have doubled since the 1980s. About 10 percent of children from infancy up to age 2 years and a little more than 20 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese, the report said.

"Contrary to the common perception that chubby babies are healthy babies and will naturally outgrow their baby fat, excess weight tends to persist," report committee chair Leann Birch, professor of human development and director in the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University, said in an institute news release.

"This is a national concern because weight-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure once occurred almost exclusively in adults but are now occurring at rising rates among teens and young adults," Birch said.

"Child care providers, health professionals, and policymakers can be helpful partners to parents in reducing obesity risk by creating healthy environments and implementing positive practices during the crucial early years of development," she added.

Tackling only one factor will not solve the problem of obesity among infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The issue requires a wide-ranging approach that includes identifying when young children are overweight, increasing physical activity, encouraging healthy eating, and making sure children get enough sleep, the report said.

Recommendations include:

  • Limiting young children's television and other media use,
  • Requiring child-care providers to promote healthy sleeping practices,
  • Educating parents about age-appropriate sleep times and good sleep habits,
  • Requiring child-care providers to provide opportunities and environments that encourage physical activity,
  • Increasing efforts to promote breast-feeding,
  • Requiring child-care facilities and preschools to follow the meal patterns established by the U.S. Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The report recommendations are aimed at policymakers and health-care and child-care providers, but these professionals can educate and support parents in establishing health habits in the home, too, the report authors said.

The institute is under the umbrella of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how parents can keep their children at a healthy weight.

Posted: June 2011


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