Addressing Colorado’s childhood obesity epidemic

By Stephanie Carson

Special to The SUN

Obesity is on the rise in Colorado’s youngest citizens. In the past four decades, childhood obesity has tripled in the state and Renee Porter, obesity clinical nurse coordinator at Children’s Hospital Colorado, knows that first hand.

“We are seeing kids referred younger and younger,” Porter says. “We’re actually happy about it because we feel like that’s the time when an intervention is probably going to make the biggest impact on the rest of their lives.”

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and groups such as the Colorado Health Foundation are working to improve access to healthy food and exercise for Colorado Children.

According to the United Health Foundation, Colorado ranks eighth in the country for statewide health. Porter and others warn that number can change since research indicates if a child is overweight at age 5, he or she is five times more likely to be obese as an adult.

Adding healthy food at school lunches, eliminating access to sugary drinks and increasing access to public parks are all ways Anne Warhover, president and CEO with the Colorado Health Foundation, says the state can begin to reduce childhood obesity.

She also says the amount of money spent on health problems related to obesity could be spent on other areas of need.

“One-point-six billion dollars a year is spent in Colorado, treating diseases that are directly caused by obesity,” says Warhover. “If you think we could put that money into schools, we could put that into better education or higher education.”

In addition to parents making healthier options available, Warhover says improving the health of the state’s children comes down to making healthy options the norm.

“It’s one-hundred percent preventable,” says Warhover. “We don’t need to have this statistic if we can figure out how to change the culture of health and how to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

In addition to healthy eating and exercise, experts say a lack of sleep and stress at home are other factors that can contribute to a child’s weight problem.