Early Childhood Obesity Prevention
Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA) is a community-based nonprofit focused on creating a better future for children. CAA believes that improving the lives of children starts by supporting and providing for families. NMHEC is working with CAA to combat childhood obesity in Nevada.
American obesity is becoming an epidemic with an estimated national cost of $190.2 billion each year with childhood obesity averaging $14 billion in direct medical costs.1 Children who are obese are more likely to have a shortened lifespan and develop a variety of health problems, including hypertension, high cholesterol, liver disease, orthopedic problems, sleep apnea, asthma and more often, type 2 diabetes. They are also predisposed to be obese in adulthood. Research indicates that physically active and fit children tend to have better academic achievement, better school attendance, and fewer disciplinary problems. Children who get regular exercise may have improved concentration and cognitive functioning. In Nevada, the prevalence of obesity in children is especially high amongst our youngest children. According to the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy at UNLV, 2016 Kindergarten Health Survey, 32.6% of Nevada’s Kindergarteners are overweight or obese. These rates are disproportionately high for Native American/Alaska Native children (39.6%), African American/Black children (37.7%), Hispanic children (31.4%), and Asian/Pacific Islander children (26.8%) compared to their Caucasian counterparts (13.9%).
To combat this issue, Nevada has developed the State of Nevada’s Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Workgroup and corresponding State Plan for Early Childhood Obesity Prevention (State Plan). The State Plan includes strategic components aimed at conducting education and outreach, scaling effective intervention programs, building state infrastructure and implementing policies and procedures to allow greater access to healthy foods and physical activity for children ages 0 to 8 years old in Nevada. To date, these efforts have resulted in the passage of enhanced policies for nutrition and physical activity in licensed child care facilities (AB152, 2015 Nevada Legislative Session), development of online toolkits for parents and child care providers, as well the creation of a comprehensive website developed by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office which provides resources, tips and strategies for parents and providers. 2
Did you know?
- Over 30% of all kindergarten students in Nevada are overweight or obese. The rates are disproportionately high for Native American/Alaska Native children (39.6%); African American/Black children (37.7%); and Hispanic children (31.4%).
- Obese/overweight children are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and glucose impairment.
- Obese/overweight children are likely to miss school days due to illness and/or social/emotional distress, impacting their ability to succeed in school.
- Early childhood is a time for brain development and forming habits, such as proper nutrition and physical activity.
- Enhancing the ability of early childhood providers and parents to engage children in developmentally appropriate physical activity and healthy nutrition will reduce the incidence of childhood obesity in Nevada, resulting in healthier children, increased academic success and significant cost savings.