Obesity in children and youth is a concerning trend. According to Canada's report Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, conditions more commonly found in adults such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and joint problems are now also being identified in children diagnosed with obesity. Childhood obesity often follows individuals into adulthood along with many of the health complications.
There are a number of factors that have lead to the increase in children being diagnosed clinically overweight and obese. Children spend more time in front of screens and less time physically active. They are bombarded with information about unhealthy food choices and combined with lower levels of activity, the trend toward unhealthy weights has been increasing over time.
To help reverse this trend, many groups from health professionals to educators are aiming to inform parents and children about the benefits of a pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle. There are many programs that provide teens and their families with a nurturing, safe environment where they can develop the skills necessary to make healthy choices on a daily basis – choices around proper nutrition and finding ways to get and stay active. These are life skills that children and adolescents will use to move towards a healthier and more active adulthood. There are a number of programs in Ontario and across the country as well that provide support to children and their families.
One example of a program for teens is found at UW Fitness, based in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. Teens in Motion (TIM) is an exercise program for clinically overweight and obese children and teens aged 12-17 years. TIM allows teens to take part in physical activities – to try them in a safe and private environment so they have the confidence to take part in activities in their school and local communities. In addition, Registered Dieticians provide nutritional sessions for children and their parents so they understand the benefits of healthy nutritional choices and how easy it is to make these choices every day. One of the key outcomes of TIM is to ensure teens are having fun, in an encouraging and supportive environment while building some much needed self-esteem.
The Childhood Obesity Foundation is a charitable organization based in British Columbia that was founded to address the issues of childhood obesity and to promote healthy, active lifestyles. The organization developed the 5-2-1-0 Rule to encourage all families to make healthy choices on a daily basis. The Rule encourages families to eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables everyday, sit for no more than 2 hours of screen time per day, engage in at least 1 hour of physical activity per day and consume 0 sugary drinks.
The MEND program – Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it! – helps families with children aged 5-7 and 7-13 make better choices to move towards healthier weights and healthier lifestyles. The program shows families the importance of making healthy nutritional choices, the need to include daily physical activity and how it all can result in children gaining some much needed self esteem.
McMaster Children’s Hospital Children’s Exercise and Nutrition Centre: Offers children, youth and families programs provided by inter-disciplinary teams to address medical issues as well as support in making healthy lifestyle choices.
Public Health Ontario: Addressing Obesity in Children and Youth: Evidence to Guide Action for Ontario: A document that presents evidence on the trends, causes and risk factor of obesity in children and youth, the effectiveness of interventions and actions other jurisdictions are taking.
Healthy Outcomes Paediatric Program for Scarborough: A program to help children and their families in making important lifestyle changes that will lead to improved health, stronger bodies and a better quality of life.
Bringing Active Living and Nutrition into your Childhood Everyday (BALANCE): Through Health Sciences North, this program provides outpatient intervention and treatment to Northern Ontario children and youth battling obesity.
SickKids Team Obesity Management Program (STOMP) Teens Program: A weight management program for teens aged 12-17 years focusing on healthy living located at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Kindercare: Provides a list of Childhood Obesity Treatment Programs in Ontario.
Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit: A joint collaboration between Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, providing resources for those educating children and families about healthy eating and physical activity.
Learn more about specific activities that will help your teen keep moving:
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