In the past four decades, childhood obesity has tripled in Colorado where 23 percent of kids are now overweight or obese. Without a significant change, one third of Colorado youth will suffer from obesity related diseases and are predicted to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. However, meaningful collaborations to address childhood obesity are taking place all throughout the state.
“Childhood obesity can be prevented. We know that healthy behaviors and the environment are strong predictors of health outcomes,” noted Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. “Let’s embrace the pioneering spirit of Colorado and together, we can create an environment where Colorado’s children are eating healthier and moving more, which will pay dividends in the future.”
Organizations like the Foundation and LiveWell Colorado have committed to take a cooperative approach to define and aid in implementing solutions that raise awareness and lead to action. Focus areas include:
Improving access to healthy food: One in three kids eats fast food every day. However, in 2013, the LiveWell Montezuma farm-to-school program incorporated more than 7,000 pounds of local produce into the school cafeterias in the Cortez and Mancos Colorado School Districts. In addition, LiveWell Colorado’s School Food Initiative works with school food directors to increase the amount of healthy, made-from-scratch food served to children in their schools.
Expanding opportunities for physical activity: Less than one fourth of Colorado children have access to physical education five days per week. But in places like Steamboat Springs, Colo., schools are working to provide regular opportunities for children to walk and bike to school. Through the Steamboat Springs School District’s Hike and Bike to School program, school buses and parents drop students off at a location less than one mile away from the school each Thursday and the students, along with parent volunteers, walk or bike together to school.
Realizing economic impacts: Combating childhood obesity has a critical budget component as well. Childhood obesity is responsible for $14.1 billion in direct annual medical costs in the U.S. and children treated for obesity are four times more expensive for the health care system than the average insured child.
“The time for tackling the complex problem of obesity is now,” said Shepard Nevel, president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado. “There is momentum behind this movement across the state's rural, urban and suburban communities and in the private, nonprofit and public sectors. Our collective efforts can reverse the obesity trends in our state and create a future where the healthy choice is the easy choice for all Coloradans.”
To learn more about childhood obesity in Colorado and how you can create success stories in your own community or organization, follow #COChildhoodObesity on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month of September. For more information, visit http://www.coloradohealth.org/ChildhoodObesityMonth/.
Aboutthe Colorado Health Foundation The Colorado Health Foundation works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by ensuring that all Colorado kids are fit and healthy and that all Coloradans achieve stable, affordable and adequate health coverage to improve their health with support from a network of primary health care and community services. To advance our mission, the Foundation engages the community through grantmaking, public policy, investing in evaluation, private sector partnerships and strategic communications. For more information, please visit www.ColoradoHealth.org.
AboutLiveWell Colorado LiveWell Colorado is a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. Working in partnership with obesity prevention initiatives across the state, LiveWell Colorado supports and advances policy, environmental and lifestyle changes that aim to provide every Coloradan with access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. LiveWell Colorado’s strategic partners and funders are the Colorado Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Learn more at livewellcolorado.org.