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N.C. Task Force Makes Recommendations to Curb Childhood Obesity

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Members of the North Carolina Task Force for Healthy Weight in Children and Youth met today in Chapel Hill to introduce new recommendations to help prevent childhood obesity. The recommendations are written for families, schools, daycare centers, the media, and healthcare professionals and encourage healthy eating habits and regular exercise.

"Our group has been meeting for over a year to develop guidelines to help parents understand the importance of a maintaining healthy weight for their children," said Dr. Robert Schwartz, a pediatric endocrinologist at Brenner Children's Hospital, and medical director of the task force. "Every day I see adult diseases trickling down and affecting our children. I am treating children with Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis -- diseases that are related to being overweight and can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle."

Last year, over 40 percent of North Carolina teenagers were at risk for being obese as adults and 25 percent were overweight. Currently, 20 percent of adults in North Carolina are considered obese and over 50 percent are overweight.

"These numbers have doubled in the past 10 years and they have tripled in teenagers," Schwartz said. "Most of these children already have one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. We have to reverse this trend."

Huge portion sizes, too many hours spent in front of the television a decrease in physical activity, and lack of good nutritional choices in our homes, schools and communities have contributed to this obesity epidemic, Schwartz said.

"While this growing problem has no quick fix, we know a comprehensive approach, which addresses these lifestyle issues will help curb the problem over time," Schwartz said. "We hope to implement behaviors with lifelong positive effects."

Recommendations from the committee include:

  • Ensure that all children and youth participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

  • Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

  • Limit TV/video time to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day.

  • Provide appropriate portion sizes of foods and beverages.

  • Prepare and eat more meals at home.

  • Set state standards for all foods and beverages available in school and child care programs.

Schwartz and his task force also recommend more physical activity opportunities in schools and communities with equitable access to childhood overweight prevention and treatment services.

"Hopefully we will receive pilot grants which will allow us to try some programs that have worked in other states," Schwartz said. "For example, I'd like to replace the sugar-sweetened drinks in the vending machines in local schools with healthier choices like water, 100 percent juice and lowfat, flavored milk. Other states have done this."

The task force was comprised of health care professionals, social workers, staff from public health departments and North Carolina universities.

"We can't simply lecture parents and hope they go and heed our recommendations," he said. "We must work with each individual and family to develop a system that works for them. We have to tackle this one family at a time and work to help them find the motivation to adopt a healthier lifestyle."

For a complete listing of the task force's recommendations and committee members, visit their website at www.nchealthyweight.com.

Media Contact: Dorothy Caldwell, 919.733.3553.

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