Breaking the Cycle of Obesity
Children who are overweight are more likely than not to be obese adults. They will have more chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart problems, higher health care costs, and unfortunately, be more likely to die prematurely. How do we stop the cycle?
Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health believes the first step toward healthy aging is intervening during childhood and teen years.
“The importance of developing a healthy lifestyle during childhood cannot be overstated,” says Ory. “We know that healthy kids are more likely to become healthy adults.”
During childhood, it is important to work with parents and schools to make sure kids have access to healthy food and plenty of time to play and stay active. Once adults and in the workplace, “playgrounds” become stairwells, standing desks and walking meetings.
Setting up workplace health and wellness committees, like the one recently established at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, is a way to encourage healthy lifestyles in the work environment. The initial emphasis of the committee is to address issues that are common to the onset and progression of many chronic diseases and to increase awareness of screening, early detection and quality care.
According to Ory, the committee began by conducting a school-wide assessment of current awareness of workplace policies that address major health risk factors. A baseline on current health-related behaviors and environmental barriers will help guide strategies for promoting a healthier work environment.
Already, several strategies have been recommended at the school such as walking across campus to eat a healthy lunch and posting signs around campus with quick reminders of easy ways to stay healthy.
The school also helps communities integrate obesity prevention efforts by partnering with organizations like the Brazos Valley Obesity Prevention Network.. Recent activities have involved youth leadership training to help teens develop skills to assess environmental hazards and learn how to communicate the importance of safer communities to local government. Additionally, a walking circuit has been developed in downtown Bryan, Texas that will benefit area residents of all ages, and is examining the public health benefits of creating greenways in the community.
“If we don’t stop the cycle of obesity from childhood through adulthood, the next generation of Texas children may very well be the first generation to grow up less healthy than their parents,” says Ory.