A cursury Google search of "childhood obesity" brings up anywhere from 400,000 to over 1 million results, depending on how you word it.
Why? Childhood Obesity is at epidemic levels.
As a preschool teacher you CAN make a difference! It's not just a "home" issue.
We, as preschool teachers, should consider teaching, modeling and promoting health and wellness in our classrooms every month for the children and for families.
I've mentioned Peggy Kelly often throughout this website. She was (and is!) an amazing mentor. She was the director of a preschool program where I had the honor to work for and learn from her.
She has written an informative article about childhood obesity with a focus specifically on preschoolers and how you, as a preschool teacher, can make a difference.
You'll find many tips and helpful steps you can take today throughout the article as well as at the end of this post.
Kelly, CHHC, AADP
This mission is near and dear to my heart, and I think you’ll agree that it is a very worthy undertaking.
There’s an epidemic all around us. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years!
Obesity in children ages 6-11 years in the U.S. increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Adolescents (ages 12-19) who were obese increased from 5% to almost 21% during that time period. Yikes!
The CDC states that in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is truly at epidemic proportions. So what can we do?
On February 26, 2014, the CDC reported that the obesity rate among 2-5 year olds dropped by almost half in the U.S. over the past decade.
About 8 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2012, down from 14 percent in 2004. This is significant because the report suggests a new wave of Americans may avoid the risk of heart disease and diabetes which are both linked to being severely overweight. (I would venture to say that they’ll avoid the risks only if they have adopted and maintained healthy habits.) It’s hopeful though.
Below are the health concerns associated with obesity that kids are dealing with:
Longer term health effects include:
Cancer (breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple types of myeloma and Hodgkins’ lymphoma)
Was your sigh as heavy as mine after reading that list?
Remember how we used to associate these health conditions with being elderly? It wasn’t surprising when we’d hear that 80-year old Granny has heart disease.
However, it is astounding to know that adolescents can have cardiovascular disease or that 10-year olds have type 2 diabetes!
What will their future hold? Probably lots of medications, doctor visits, hospital stays, and most likely, a shorter life span. (Sigh.)
More specifically, how can preschool teachers become ‘Obesity-Fighting, Health Promoting Warriors’?
I know you have a limited amount of time with your preschoolers. Heck, you may even have your own wellness struggles that you’re dealing with.
I assure you, YOU can have a positive impact here and make a difference! Below are some ideas and strategies for doing your part to eradicate childhood obesity and becoming an OFHP Warrior.
Preschool teachers are some of the hardest working people I know! You are a child’s first teacher outside of their home.
As a former early childhood educator, I know from experience that what we say and do in the classroom really does have an impact! We don’t always know what things we say and do will make the biggest difference, but we can feel confident in knowing that it matters and can have long-term effect.
While childhood obesity may be at epidemic levels, teachers play an integral part in helping to eliminate it. You are needed on the front lines!
Be an Obesity-Fighting, Health-Promoting Warrior!
I promise you, it WILL make a difference.
Peggy Kelly is a health coach, wellness educator, yoga teacher, and 25+ year veteran in the wellness industry. She got her start teaching corporate fitness classes, walking programs, and personal training. Her highly successful coaching programs support clients with all aspects of wellness, including physical, intellectual/emotional, spiritual, relational/social, financial, and organizational wellness.
In addition to wellness, Peg’s background includes many years in a Fortune 500 corporation where she had a dual role of executive assistant/event planner along with teaching corporate fitness classes. She has a degree in early childhood education and is a former preschool lead teacher and director. Peggy has been in church leadership, taught Sunday school, directed VBS programs, and led a Women's Ministry program.