Recently, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield awarded $125,000 to nine schools in Western Pennsylvania to help fight childhood obesity. This got me thinking. Childhood obesity, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past thirty years. The percentage of children aged 6 to 11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. In 2010, more than one third of American children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
What are we doing to our kids? With the effects of childhood obesity ranging from, in the short-term, increased likelihood of suffering risk factors for cardiovascular disease, having prediabetes, and being at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and poor self-esteem to, in the long-term, being at risk for adult-onset heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis, we owe it to our youth to help turn things around.
Which is why Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s action is laudable. The executive director of the Highmark Caring Foundation, Charlie LaVallee, was quoted as saying, “Our goal with funding additional schools is to ensure that even more children will begin to learn early in life the benefits of being active and healthy.” We should all be working together to teach as many children as possible those lessons, in whatever way is available to us. It’s great to see a health insurance company step up to the plate. Of course, parents, schools, and medical professionals also need to play a role.And what can sports clubs, health facilities, fitness centers, and gyms do?
As organizations dedicated to helping individuals meet their physical potential, push themselves past preconceived boundaries, and achieve greater awareness of their own health and their ability to control it, sports facilities of all kinds might be uniquely positioned to fight childhood obesity.
Take a look at your scheduling software: Can you fit in an extra class or two that will get kids moving? Can you host healthy-eating information sessions for parents? Can you even send personal trainers or other staff out to schools, maybe in underprivileged areas, where their expertise (and enthusiasm!) could inspire whole classes full of kids?
It’s worth thinking about, anyway.