Sunday, September 16, 2012

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September has been designated as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. These rates are very alarming considering both the short- and long-term effects on a child’s health status. According to the Institute of Medicine, children and adolescents ages 2 to 18 years with a BMI of > 30 or > 95th percentile for age and gender—whichever is smaller—are considered obese.  Additionally, it has been recommended that children and adolescents with a BMI > 85th percentile but < 95th percentile or a BMI of 30—whichever is smaller—be considered overweight.

What are the consequences of childhood obesity?

According to research, studies have found that compared to healthy children and adolescents, children and adolescents who are obese have significant impairments in health related quality of life (HRQOL) in all domains, including physical and psychosocial functioning (e.g., emotional, social, and school). The CDC notes that some immediate health effects include: higher risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, diabetes, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. Furthermore, long-term consequences of obesity may include type 2 diabetes, cancer (e.g., colon, breast, or prostate), osteoarthritis, or stroke.

Interventions and treatment of childhood obesity:

As a parent or caregiver, you can play a major role in improving childhood obesity. First Lady Michelle Obama has worked with organizations across the United States with her Let’s Move! initiative to expand access to nutritious foods and promote physical activity among children. To access more information about the Let’s Move! Campaign and how you can deal with the issue of childhood obesity, visit

In my work as a psychologist and researcher, I have collaborated with others to examine the impact of obesity on children. We have found that psychologists can be a great resource to assist with changing healthy lifestyles and decreasing childhood obesity. The use of behavioral modification and behavior therapy can significantly improve health eating and physical activity. Limbers, Turner, and Varni (2008) discuss how behavior modification programs and motivational interviewing can target eating, exercise, and diet behaviors to result in significant improvements in weight status, increasing physical fitness, and psychosocial improvements for children who are obese children. 

General resources to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity:

Note: Please contact Dr. Erlanger Turner for references.

© Copyright 2012 Erlanger A. Turner