Youth Obesity Prevention and Afterschool Programs
- Published on January 07, 2009
Afterschool programs are key components of obesity prevention in youth. Due to the fact that eating habits develop during youth, afterschool programs are allies in early prevention efforts. Keeping youth safe and occupied while providing information on healthy eating addresses parents concerns and teaches vital prevention skills.
Research on obesity among youth reveals that 61.5% of youth between the ages of 9-13 do not participate in any organized physical activity outside of school. The CDCs Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 2003 showed that only 1/5 of youth ages 9-12 was consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. The health consequences for youth include greater risk for future cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension and respiratory problems. The greatest health risk is the marked increase of type 2 diabetes among youth, especially in African American and Hispanic populations. In 2000, the CDC estimated that 1 in 3 youth will develop diabetes during their lifetimes.
Expanding afterschool programs requires assistance on four levels. At the federal and state levels encouraging public and private insurance providers to reimburse and contribute to afterschool programs that target obesity is crucial. For afterschool program leaders using youth tested and youth driven curriculums is essential for retaining interest. Finally, funding for programs should be directed towards appropriate staff training and continuation of programs throughout the summer months.
Afterschool programs that encourage physical activity have been proven to increase bone density, lower BMI, contribute to weight loss and reduce levels of tobacco and alcohol use.