A New Tool to Combat Childhood Obesity
October 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
Just this week, a fabulous new book was released, A Year of Being Well: Messages from Families on Living Healthier Lives. The book is a simple 13-month guide using a diverse group of real families that demonstrates how they have improved the health in their both their communities and personal lives. The book is the result of a collaboration between the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation as well as the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
I must say, as a Registered Dietitian, this is an excellent tool to help families. Realistic advice makes healthy lifestyle changes seem achievable rather than overwhelming. The best part about this book is that it is FREE… available in Spanish and English by clicking HERE
I also had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Aliya Hussaini, the Health Team Lead for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Please see the interview below:
Lori: What do you feel is the most difficult barrier for families to overcome in order to improve their health?
Dr. Hussaini: Time. Overwhelmingly, our easy-access environments are not conducive to good health. We are not required to move for much of what we do during the course of a day. We are all multitasking and moving our minds (though perhaps not our bodies) from one thing to the next, so time available to be active or to prepare healthy meals is short. If we don’t make an active decision that we will do the planning necessary to create healthy meals and find time to be active, the easy access to predominantly unhealthy foods and the lure of a sedentary lifestyle make it very hard to be healthy – in fact, only 1 in 3 adults is succeeding at remaining a healthy weight.
Lori: Can you tell us what prompted your passion for this topic and as a physician, why do you feel it is important to prevent childhood obesity?
Dr. Hussaini: At the beginning of my pediatric residency, most of the diabetic children I took care of were type 1 diabetics. By the time I was in my third year, almost all new diabetics I was taking care of were type 2 diabetics. I was seeing the consequences of the burgeoning rates of childhood obesity right before my eyes. It was a wake up call to the tremendous health impact of obesity. And being an obese child doesn’t just put children at increased risk for adult obesity and adult onset chronic disease, it leads to chronic disease in children while they are children. Earlier onset of chronic disease allows more time to suffer debilitating effects of the disease at younger ages. Beyond the physical consequences, though, I knew that very commonly, those kids were not as happy, not as likely to perform well in school – there are other social and emotional effects of obesity that are equally debilitating. I was an overweight child and I have yo-yo’d a lot over my life. I remember very precisely moments when a look or a joke or even a loving, but misplaced comment hurt my self-esteem. Once you are an obese child, you are much more likely to be an obese adult. I wanted to figure out how to get in front of this tidal wave and how to protect kids from the damage to their bodies and their spirit.
Lori: Wow, thank you for all that you have done to help prevent childhood obesity. What was your role in aiding the families involved with the Be Well Book and how were the action steps developed?
Dr. Hussaini: I actually didn’t help any of the families in the book because they each came up with these solutions on their own and/or with the support and guidance of friends, family, and community resources. We asked some of the organizations we work with to identify families who’d made creative, simple, inexpensive changes to help their families access healthy foods and increase physical activity. We also asked them to think about people who had had a slightly larger impact – say on their communities. The action steps are based in part on what those families were doing that worked, and in part on what the best evidence the scientific literature and experts have to offer. (A lot of times those two things line up!) We tried to provide a range of options to meet readers where they are. All the steps can be effective so families can really figure out what their natural “next step” is and what resonates with them.
Lori: I love it, empowering the families to make their “next step.” And just for fun, what did you eat for breakfast today?
Dr. Hussaini: I eat the same thing for breakfast most mornings – ½ a cup of unsweetened oatmeal with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, a banana, and a cup of coffee. Most people like variety, but my life is pretty hectic and I like not having to figure out a new, healthy breakfast choice every day. That routine makes it work for me. It’s a point that the book makes, too. You have to figure out what works for you and your family. That’s the only way to make changes that you can stick to for the long haul.
Lori: Thank you for your valuable time and sharing with us your expertise and passion. I know both this book and your organization will continue to impact families around the country!
Disclaimer: I was asked to review this book and agreed to do so because I believe this is a wonderful resource for families to use. I was not compensated for my time.