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Childhood obesity is an epidemic which can lead to problems later on in life such as heart disease and depression. But having our children lead a healthy life can be made easier by implementing certain steps at the community level. KSMU’s Benjamin Fry went to a conference put on by Missouri State University’s political science department and has more.
"I’m here at MSU’s Plaster Student Union where health experts are discussing one of the most prominent health problems in youth today. When it comes to tackling childhood obesity, they stress early prevention."
“We start before they get to this point. So the upstream, we stop them before they get down where we have to pluck them out one-by-one”
That’s Cheryl Kelly of Saint Louis University’s School of Public Health.
She says making the environment more conducive to physical activity is more effective than treatment after the fact.
Often times, this involves a change at the community level.
“So if you're telling someone to go for a thirty minute walk five days a week, what if they live in a neighborhood that that’s just not possible, what if they don’t have sidewalks or its high crime or there’s a lot of traffic, telling them that is one thing, but providing them with the environment, the opportunity to make those changes, is important,” Kelly said.
Besides making the neighborhood better for outdoor activities, panelists said altering routine activities can also make a big difference.
Ian Thomas is with the PedNet Coalition, a nonprofit group in Columbia, Missouri.
He spoke of the benefits of having a Safe Routes to School program, the goal of which is to make it easier for students to walk to school.
“There are a lot of suburban areas near Missouri cities where very few kids walk to school, but really they could,” Thomas said.
Thomas addressed the issue of funding for programs like Safe Routes to School. He says often times they aren’t as expensive as you might think.
“You could really get it going with zero or very minimal funds. That’s why we’ve worked with MoDot on getting these $1,500 mini-grants provided. $1,500 really is not a lot of money, but its enough to pay a volunteer coordinator for a few hours a week,” Thomas said.
Experts also suggest including the whole family in physical activity, eating together as frequently as possible, and planning sensible meal portions.
The conference will continue Saturday on the third floor of the Plaster Student Union.
Registration is forty dollars.
For KSMU News, I’m Benjamin Fry.