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Did you participate in National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Afterschool and Summer News

Oh dear, readers! We let this important month and blog post slip by! We apologize to you and the author, Jennifer Trott! However, it’s never too late to take action for youth health. We hope to see you at Bridge on Monday!

All the best, Afterschool Andy

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September was National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the start of a new school year.

by Jennifer Trott, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition

By 2012, most of us know understand the facts – in the U.S. over 23 million youth aged 2 to 19 are either overweight or obese. Washington State is no exception, with just under a third of children falling within these categories. We have an epidemic on our hands.

Though this is the fourth time in history that National Childhood Obesity Awareness month has been promoted, this particular year brings a renewed focus on obesity prevention efforts even more so than general awareness – and that’s good news. We’re taking action and figuring out what our problems are nationally, state-wide, locally, environmentally and systemically.

At the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, we are thrilled to have School’s Out Washington as one of the 46 diverse partners throughout the state of Washington that are working to find and implement real solutions to a multi-faceted obesity problem. The work is difficult and complex, but we believe that Washington State is home to a strong network of partners poised to tackle the issue – we just need the individual, grassroots action to make it happen.

You don’t need to do this for a living or work at one of these obesity-fighting organizations to join the movement. You can do little things where you live, work, learn and play to make the small changes that add up. Here’s our top five list of what you need to know this Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2012:

What’s happening now –

1)    Back to school – school lunches just got healthier. For the first time in 15 years, the USDA has raised its nutritional standards for school meals, including breakfast and lunch. As the school year gets under way, we’re hearing about how school districts across the state are taking on the new changes. The necessary updates may be a bit bumpy for schools, parents, and kids alike, but you can help by engaging in a dialogue with your kids and asking them what they’re eating for lunch. Ask your school officials how they’re meeting the new standards. For a neat video and information on how King County schools are raising the bar, visit Public Health King County’s website.

2)    Back to school # 2 – budgets are tight, but shared use of public spaces can help. Earlier this year, with the input of School’s Out Washington, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition released a toolkit for Washington State on “Shared Use” – the concept of maximizing public spaces. Examples can include anything from an afterschool programs like the YMCA using classrooms or playgrounds after hours to promote healthy minds and bodies, or adults being able to walk the track at their local school yard after work. Shared use is a fantastic way for a community to grow itself under tight budgets, and written agreements between the two entities sharing space can really help clarify any concerns over issues like liability and maintenance. For examples of shared use in Washington State and a step-by-step guide to forming shared use agreements, visit our new shared use web page. You can encourage shared use in your community by accessing the toolkit and talking to the right administrators in your city.

3)    Sugary drinks are a leading cause of obesity and they are EVERYWHERE. Last year, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition launched Soda Free Sundays – a community-wide challenge in King County that urged residents and organizations to start taking a break from sugary drinks, one day at a time. Working off of the success of the over 1,000 individual pledges and 55 pledging organizations, we are now working with institutions – from governments to health care facilities to youth serving organizations – to rethink access to healthy beverages. If sugary drinks are easily within reach where you work or where you play with your kids, speak up! Be the squeaky wheel necessary to make healthy beverage options available. See our Healthier Beverage Environments page for more information.

What you need to look out for –

4)    Need for better nutrition and physical activity standards in childcare settings. Believe it or not, childcare facilities are not subject to the same standards that schools are when it comes to healthy standards. This means that your child in daycare or after-school care may be experiencing too much screen time and consuming too many unhealthy foods on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are some upcoming opportunities to influence the rules around childcare standards in Washington State. If you want to be involved, we recommend you follow School’s Out Washington for information and/or ask to start receiving action alerts from the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition. We’ll keep you informed and let you know when it’s time to take action.

5)    Transportation greatly impacts our health. Over the past few years, health and transportation advocates started working closely on ways to make our communities safer and more multi-modal in terms of transportation. In the past, Washington received funding for creating models for Safe Routes to Schools. We also worked on laying the groundwork for making health a goal in transportation planning in Washington State. If you’re interested in safer neighborhood streets, and enabling your children to bike or walk to school and afterschool programs, we encourage you to look at available resources in your community (or ask for them if you don’t have them) and start receiving action alerts from the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is no longer a month that’s only about looking at the problem – it’s about solutions. If you only do one of the above, you’ll be contributing to your community, your children, and your children’s children. Get involved!


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