Governor John Hickenlooper has proclaimed September to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the Colorado Health Foundation and LiveWell Colorado have joined efforts to bring awareness to and solutions for the issue in Colorado. These organizations work together to connect with local communities, organizations and families about the actions each can take to reduce childhood obesity and improve the health and economic wellbeing of the state of Colorado.
In the past four decades, childhood obesity has tripled in Colorado where 23 percent of kids are now overweight or obese. Without a significant change, one third of Colorado youth will suffer from obesity related diseases and are predicted to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. However, meaningful collaborations to address childhood obesity are taking place all throughout the state.
“Childhood obesity can be prevented. We know that healthy behaviors and the environment are strong predictors of health outcomes,” noted Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. “Let’s embrace the pioneering spirit of Colorado and together, we can create an environment where Colorado’s children are eating healthier and moving more, which will pay dividends in the future.”
Organizations like the Foundation and LiveWell Colorado have committed to take a cooperative approach to define and aid in implementing solutions that raise awareness and lead to action. Focus areas include:
- Improving access to healthy food: One in three kids eats fast food every day. However, in 2013, the LiveWell Montezuma farm-to-school program incorporated more than 7,000 pounds of local produce into the school cafeterias in the Cortez and Mancos Colorado School Districts. In addition, LiveWell Colorado’s School Food Initiative works with school food directors to increase the amount of healthy, made-from-scratch food served to children in their schools.
- Expanding opportunities for physical activity: Less than one fourth of Colorado children have access to physical education five days per week. But in places like Steamboat Springs, Colo., schools are working to provide regular opportunities for children to walk and bike to school. Through the Steamboat Springs School District’s Hike and Bike to School program, school buses and parents drop students off at a location less than one mile away from the school each Thursday and the students, along with parent volunteers, walk or bike together to school.
- Realizing economic impacts: Combating childhood obesity has a critical budget component, as well. Childhood obesity is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct annual medical costs in the U.S.1 and children treated for obesity are four times more expensive for the health care system than the average insured child2.
“The time for tackling the complex problem of obesity is now,” said Shepard Nevel, president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado. “There is momentum behind this movement across the state’s rural, urban and suburban communities and in the private, nonprofit and public sectors. Our collective efforts can reverse the obesity trends in our state and create a future where the healthy choice is the easy choice for all Coloradans.”
To learn more about childhood obesity in Colorado and how you can create success stories in your own community or organization, follow #COChildObesity on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month of September. For more information, visit http://www.coloradohealth.org/ChildhoodObesityMonth/.