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Atrium Health Navicent Physicians Urge Families to Prioritize Healthy Habits to Fight Childhood Obesity

In observance of Pediatric Obesity Awareness Month, Atrium Health Navicent encourages parents to not only make healthy eating, sleep and exercise habits a priority for their children, but for the entire family to help set children on a path for a healthier future. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.7 million children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from obesity, and 19.7 percent of children are considered obese. In Georgia, 33.9 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are obese, according to America’s Health Rankings. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers childhood obesity one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century and childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S. over the past 30 years. The CDC defines childhood obesity as adolescents with a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body including the heart and lungs, muscles and bones, and the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty.

“Obesity increases a child’s risk for breathing difficulties, fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Domonique Charles, an Atrium Health Navicent pediatrician. “In addition to ensuring children have a regular check-up with a pediatrician to spot signs of obesity early, it’s important that parents model and encourage healthy eating and exercise habits at home. Developing healthy habits early can have a significant impact on a child’s future health.”

Many factors contribute to childhood obesity, including genetics, eating patterns, physical activity levels and sleep routines.

Here are some ways parents and caregivers can help children achieve a healthy weight and establish lifelong healthy habits:

• Adults should model healthy eating patterns, including a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. Half of a child’s plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Replace sugary drinks with water, 100 percent juice or low-fat milk.

•E xercise as a family. Suggestions include walking a pet before and after school, ride a bike, active chores like washing a car, vacuuming or raking leaves, and outdoor games that involve lots of movement. Children should get 60 minutes of exercise daily.

• Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends and holidays. Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep daily, including naps. Children aged 6 to 12 need nine to 12 hours and youth aged 13 to 18 need eight to 10 hours.

• Plan family time and reduce screen time which has been associated with poor sleep, weight gain and poor mental health. Suggestions include playing a board game together, reading to young children, cooking together or making a craft.

Atrium Health Navicent’s “Healthy Me” clinic is dedicated to helping children and teenagers achieve a healthy weight by providing support for weight loss and health education. Available services include counseling, sessions with a registered dietician, weight loss medications, bariatric surgery and regular monitoring by pediatricians who can help spot trouble areas before they become major health issues. In-person and virtual visits are offered.

The Healthy Me clinic is a service of Atrium Health Navicent Children’s Care Downtown Macon, a Facility of Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center.

For more information about services available for children, or to find a doctor, visit childrenshospitalnh.org.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent is part of Advocate Health, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the third-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.

About Advocate Health

Advocate Health is the third-largest nonprofit integrated health system in the United States – created from the combination of Advocate Aurora Health and Atrium Health. Providing care under the names Advocate Health Care in Illinois, Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama, and Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin, Advocate Health is a national leader in clinical innovation, health outcomes, consumer experience and value-based care, with Wake Forest University School of Medicine serving as the academic core of the enterprise. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Advocate Health serves nearly 6 million patients and is engaged in hundreds of clinical trials and research studies. It is nationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology, neurosciences, oncology, pediatrics and rehabilitation, as well as organ transplants, burn treatments and specialized musculoskeletal programs. Advocate Health employs nearly 150,000 team members across 67 hospitals and over 1,000 care locations and offers one of the nation’s largest graduate medical education programs with over 2,000 residents and fellows across more than 200 programs. Committed to equitable care for all, Advocate Health provides nearly $5 billion in annual community benefits.