Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.
Nearly 40 percent of all black kindergartners are overweight or obese, and nearly 40 percent of all Hispanic kindergartners in Connecticut are, too. A new policy brief by the Child Health and Development Institute says the best way to fight numbers like these is to “require action in a child’s earliest years — from birth to 2.” The numbers also indicate that 25 percent of all white kindergartners are overweight or obese also. “The numbers are staggering, and the health implications are so big,” said Judith Meyers, president and CEO of the Farmington-based CHDI, whose brief is based, in part, on research by UConn’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. “Connecticut’s rates [of childhood obesity] are among the highest in the country,” she said.
Family-based day care workers can be powerful allies in the state’s battle to curb childhood obesity by influencing diets and physical activities, says new research from the University of Connecticut. Childhood obesity has emerged as one of the most serious and widespread health threats in the United States. Nationally, 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 (about 1 in 6) are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The obesity problem is particularly acute among Hispanic children. In Connecticut, for example, 16.7 percent of Hispanic children ages 2 to 5 participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program were overweight and 18 percent were obese, compared to non-Hispanic black children (13.6 percent overweight, 14.2 percent obese) or non-Hispanic white children (14.5 percent overweight, 13.5 percent obese), according to 2011 data.