A September to Remember Childhood Obesity Month

While National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month comes to an end on September 30, we should all remain steadfast in our efforts to reverse this troubling epidemic. Consider these startling facts:

A Troubling Trend

There are plenty of reasons why this trend emerged and has yet to be reversed. We can point to the wide availability of inexpensive, unhealthy, highly-processed, high-calorie foods.

Or the fact that kids who once played outdoors, now play online; that teenagers are more likely to spend time staring at computer screens and mobile devices than exercise; that the average 19-year-old American is as sedentary as someone three times their age.

We can talk about how children’s levels of physical activity peak at age 7 in the U.S. and Europe, then drop continuously as they age. Or note how two-thirds of Americans under 18 rarely exercise at all.

A Step Toward a Solution

However vexing it may seem, we shouldn’t be discouraged. We have the tools to address this challenge through education and good nutrition – by encouraging more families and their sons and daughters to get active, eat right, and learn the advantages of a healthier lifestyle.

This is where the Herbalife Family Foundation does its best work. This outstanding institution is committed to improving the lives of children in need. It offers healthier foods to those who can’t afford any. It steps forward to deliver aid in the wake of natural disasters, like Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. It leads initiatives like the Casa Herbalife Program, which partners with charities to help deliver healthy options to kids living in orphanages, community centers, and hospitals, reaching over 50 countries.

All in all, the Foundation is offering a model for what’s required across-the-board: a clear, consistent, coherent effort to put better nutrition in reach for every child.

The tangible benefits are clear too. For instance, as noted here, the financial burden of adolescents between 8 and 11 years old being inactive now – and overweight as adults – could total $3 trillion per year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

At the same time, reversing course doesn’t have to be too hard. In fact, if we could get just half of all children to exercise for 25 minutes, three times a week, we could cut the number of cases of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and strokes by nearly half-a-million. That translates into a $32 billion annual drop in illness-related costs.

So as the fall semester commences, I think we could all do a little extra homework: between history essays and biology experiments, let’s be sure our kids eat a more balanced diet and get out of the house for a little exercise. It could go a long way in extending their lives, reducing obesity overall, and building healthier, happier families everywhere.

John Agwunobi, M.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

John AgwunobiM.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

Dr. Agwunobi holds an MPH from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Georgetown University. He completed his pediatric residency at Howard University and is currently a licensed physician in Florida and Maryland. In previous roles, he served as senior vice president and president of health and wellness for Walmart, as well as Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.