As National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month comes to a close, it’s important to review the role of childhood overweight and obesity in many serious illnesses.  The US population has one of the world’s highest rates of overweight and obesity1, and the rate of childhood overweight and obesity are increasing in the US2.  It is a fact that overweight and obese children are more likely to become overweight and obese adults3.

As highlighted in earlier articles this month, overweight and obesity increase the risk of various chronic illnesses. As the number of overweight and obese children has increased, so has the rate of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes and joint problems, conditions that used to be rare in children.  Prevention of childhood overweight and obesity could decrease these and other diseases not only in children but in those same children as they become adults.

So what can be done?  How do we break the vicious cycle of childhood overweight and obesity?

We can start at the beginning, by:

* taking measures to reduce overweight and obesity4 in girls and young women so that they are less likely to start their pregnancies at an unhealthy weight

* helping pregnant women to make healthy food choices and keep to a healthy weight in order to decrease the risk of conditions like gestational diabetes and complicated deliveries

* helping mothers to breastfeed their babies and keep breastfeeding as long as possible5

* helping mothers to lose weight after giving birth, getting back to their weight before pregnancy, to avoid starting each pregnancy from a higher weight

At VNACJ health centers, preventive care includes promotion of healthy diet and regular physical activity.  All of the centers serve as patient-centered medical homes for the community, providing primary preventive care, and (in some centers), prenatal care.

The Freehold Family Health Center, a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center and the site of the CentraState Family Medicine Residency Program, provides all the above services as well as breastfeeding support.

As a family physician and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, I provide general primary care for patients of all ages, while also teaching resident physicians and medical students about family medicine as well as breastfeeding.  I also provide breastfeeding consults for mothers and babies from any of the VNACJ health centers and from the community.

Alicia Dermer, MD, FABM, IBCLC