Childhood obesity

Dr. Anne Welch, MD, is a pediatrician at Banner Health Center in Maricopa. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call Dr. Welch's office at (520) 233-2500.

Question: How do I tell if my child is too heavy, and what can I do to help him maintain a healthy weight?

Answer: Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern. Children as young as five can develop risk factors for serious chronic conditions as a result of obesity, and are also more likely to experience bone, joint, sleep and self-esteem problems. Research indicates that overweight youth are more likely to become obese adults, increasing the risk for stroke, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and diabetes. Childhood obesity is reversible, and healthy choices now can help prevent future problems.

Regularly visiting the pediatrician is the best way to help your child avoid obesity. Your pediatrician can evaluate your child's growth patterns to determine if he is at a healthy weight for his height, and make recommendations about diet and exercise to support proper growth. If your child needs additional monitoring, your doctor will work with you to develop an age-appropriate exercise and eating plan.

Physical activity is key to healthy development and teaches an early appreciation for exercise, which is crucial for long-term health. Most children need at least one hour of physical activity daily. Sports, outdoor play and related activities help build overall fitness in children.

Parents also have the power to teach children about healthy eating habits at a young age, encouraging behaviors that stay with them for a lifetime. Offering children a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy products, combined with regular exercise and plenty of water, will help prevent obesity and associated health concerns. Getting children moving and eating right gives them the best chance for a healthy future.

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