National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

9 Sep


By: Cindy Webb, MSSA, LISW-S

NASW Ohio Chapter Executive Director

With September being National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month I encourage social workers to recognize the important role you play in battling the obesity issue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that annual spending related to overweight and obese Americans is more than $264 billion — exceeding what we spend on tobacco-related illnesses each year. Results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese. The impact is far more than a dollar concern. The health of children have a far reaching impact on family and community as well as a psychosocial impact when obese children become are targets of early and systematic social discrimination which may hinder academic and social functioning.

The CDC provides helpful tips to parents on how to prevent childhood overweight and obesity. It encourages balance calories consumed with physical activity and normal growth. This is certainly sage advice for many, but what about the families with significant barriers?

• What about the families living in their car or under a bridge? The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio reporting 4,813 parents and children were homeless in 2010. The homeless rates for children are drastically increasing. Here is where social workers will need to work with these families to assist them in obtaining basic needs while teaching them how to find healthy food choices.

• Another barrier is literacy. In the National Adult Literacy in Ohio Survey, Jenkins and Kirsch found 16 – 18% of Ohio Respondents are on a level 1 and 37% on a level 2. “Individuals in Levels 1 and 2 …. appeared to have considerable difficulty with tasks that required them to integrate or synthesize information from complex or lengthy texts or to perform quantitative tasks in which the individual had to set up the problem and then perform two or more.” Parents without this barrier struggle with these calculations. Social workers can work with these families to find ways to reduce the confusion and manage making good choices without having to deal with cumbersome calculations.

Encouraging healthy eating habits is critical. Here is where social workers will need to connect families to fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products and to advocate for the availability of those foods. Many of our inner city and rural impoverished communities do not have super markets that provide these options, and when they do the high cost becomes a barrier. Once availability is addressed, families may need assistance in food preparation or in obtaining resources to prepare food. Advocacy, resource acquisition, and education are essential in supporting healthy eating habits for many of our Ohio families.

Activity plays a role in health. Adding physical activity to one’s day is important especially outdoors. What about the communities that are considered war zones? Many families must protect their children from gunfire and other violent acts which invariably leads to keeping children off the streets and inside their homes. As a social worker, you can assist the family in finding safe outlets for children to be physically active and also safe.

The role of the social work profession is very clear in this battle. We, as social workers, must work with our families, communities, and institutions to bring about change for all Ohioans if we are to eliminate obesity in our children.

One Response to “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”

  1. Kitchen Cupboards · November 4, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    i think that once in a while, we should do some social works too because we should help other people ..

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