Not so easy, is it?
Childhood obesity affects 1 in every 3 children, but most parents are uncomfortable talking with their children about weight, not knowing what to say or how to say it. For many of us, questions about a child's weight are particularly difficult to answer, since feelings about overweight and obesity are often complicated by both personal issues and the conflicting messages communicated about weight through media and society at large. In fact, a WebMD/Sanford Health survey found that parents of teens find it more difficult to talk about weight with their child than talking about sex, drugs, alcohol or smoking.
The issue is compounded by the fact that there are limited resources to help parents respond to their children's questions about weight. Parents looking online or in a local library for information on how to address a child's weight would be hard pressed to come up with something that is useful or goes beyond the basic rhetoric about eating less and exercising more.
Childhood obesity is not unique to Philadelphia, but we have the unfortunate distinction of being the "fattest" city in Pennsylvania. Today, CDC estimates that 12.5 million kids are obese – nearly 17 percent of children and adolescents in the US. Obesity is a matter of health and is a gateway to many chronic diseases and conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, bone and joint disorders including osteoarthritis, and some cancers, among others.
Members of the Philadelphia Health Initiative (PHI), a local collaborative of interested leaders, have teamed up with national partners at the STOP Obesity Alliance and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to develop l a new resource kit for community leaders. The kit will be unveiled at a special program on Wednesday, May 15 from 11 am to 1 pm on the campus of Thomas Jefferson University. The kit will provide leaders with everything they need to host small group discussions with local parents to help them talk to their kids about weight and health.
The kit is based on "Weigh In: Talking to Your Children About Weight and Health," a free, on-line conversation guide that offers plain language responses to tough questions parents may get from children. And, just for Philadelphia families, the kit includes a local resource list that identifies places to purchase healthy foods (including dining-out options) and activities for families to enjoy together in the city.
Leaders from the PHI Steering Committee will be joined by national experts to explain more about the scope of the problem of obesity in Philadelphia and how this resource guide can fit into a larger initiative focused on helping Philadelphians achieve a healthy weight.
Panelists include JSPH Dean David Nash, MD, MBA; Barbara J. Connors, DO, MPH, Chief Medical Officer, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Region III; Neil I. Goldfarb, Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition; Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, Director, STOP Obesity Alliance, and Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP, Director, Policy and Planning, Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health.
Alexis Skoufalos, EdD, is Associate Dean, Professional Development, at the Jefferson School of Population Health.