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Health Report: Pediatrician shares tips for Fairbanks parents on how to combat childhood obesity

Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 12:15 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and with Halloween right around the corner it couldn’t have come at a better time. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic it’s important not to overlook the effects of other health topics, such as obesity in children and adults. We spoke with Dr. Carla Cartagena De Jesus to learn more about the importance of this health concern and what Fairbanks families can do about it.

“It’s a big problem actually in the US. So we know that in adults obesity is a difficult problem, but usually prevention starts with childhood. And so 1 in 5 kids actually qualify as being obese, so that’s a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 90%, and then overweight Is greater than 85% One of the things that we try to do as pediatricians, every time we see a kiddo for their well-child check is to go over their growth curve and discuss with parents like, hay we’re noticing these trends in your kiddos weight, let’s talk about that. And talk about those changes we can make at home, any behavioral lifestyle modifications that we can do to help reduce the rates of that,” said De Jesus.

Two of the greatest tools in the fight against obesity are healthy eating, and good consistent exercise. Fortunately there are programs available that enable parents to easily utilize these tools. Including the ’Walk with a Doc’ physical therapy program offered every Thursday by Foundation Health Partners at 7:00 p.m. in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

“Kids can go, and adults go and walk with a doctor and every time they have a presentation, and they try to do social distance walking as well,” said De Jesus.

But regular exercise is only half the battle, a healthy diet is essential to combating childhood obesity.

“What kids eat is a reflection of what we’re providing to them. So making sure that the foods that we get are healthy, and that we’re watching portion sizes,” said De Jesus.

Dr. De Jesus provided online resources parent’s at home can utilize to help improve their children’s eating habits.

“The CDC has this great website, which is Healthy Plate. You can put in your age, and like your male, female, and your weight, and it gives you an idea of what kinds of foods to try for your kids. It basically makes a healthy plate for kids at home. It gives them examples of what to eat! Because sometimes we get stuck and say ’Oh, the only healthy things out there are broccoli and carrots.’ But there’s a lot of other things, a lot of options and then the American Academy of pediatrics has a website called healthychildren.org and they have a lot of information about obesity prevention as well that parents can look up.”

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