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Improving Your Child’s Health Begins with Awareness

TSET programs have free healthy resources for families during Childhood Obesity Month

OKLAHOMA CITY (September 8, 2021) -- In Oklahoma, 1 in 3 kids aged 10-17 are overweight or obese, and childhood obesity has continued to rise rapidly during the COVID-19 epidemic. This National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, Shape Your Future and Swap Up, programs of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), are providing free resources to help Oklahoma kids and their families address issues related to obesity early and take back control of their health.

"The pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and behavior change is more likely to be successful when the environment supports healthy choices, “said Dr. Bruce Benjamin, vice chair for the TSET Board of Directors and associate dean for biomedical sciences and associate professor of physiology at Oklahoma State University for Health Sciences. “Healthy choices and proper sleep are essential to supporting sustained positive health behaviors and outcomes.”

Obesity and excess weight in childhood should not be overlooked. Not only are children who suffer from these conditions more likely to be obese as adults, immediate consequences can include bone and joint problems, high blood pressure, asthma, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. 

Excess weight can also negatively affect self-esteem, stress management and coping skills. To prevent or reverse these conditions, it is important to ensure children and adolescents eat well-balance meals, limit sugar, be active, drink plenty of water and get proper sleep daily.

"The best treatment is prevention,” said Susan Sisson, Ph.D, RDN, CHES, associate professor of nutritional sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. “Establishing healthy lifestyle habits such as nutrient dense foods, limited excess sugar, lots of movement, limited sitting and screen time, and sufficient sleeps are behaviors related to obesity as well as numerous other physical and behavioral outcomes. Establishing healthy habits for our children early will set them on the path to success.”

Although poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles have long been considered major risk factors for obesity, science continues to uncover the roll of sleep in weight gain -- particularly in youth. Some studies even suggest that lack of sleep in children may adversely affect how their brains regulate appetite.

“Sleep has recently emerged onto the scene as a critical component of energy balance and healthy growth and development,” said Dr. Sisson. “While we’re learning more about its impact each day, it’s role is clear that a consistent patterns of sufficient uninterrupted sleep are very important for health of children and adults.”

In a 2020 SYF cross-sectional survey, conducted by the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center Hudson College of Public Health, feedback from parents indicated that only 62% of Oklahoma children ages 5-17 get the recommended amount of sleep each day. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children aged 3-5 get 10-13 hours of sleep each day, kids 6-12 should clock 9-12 hours and teens 13-18 should sleep a total of 8-10 hours. These recommendations include naps. Adults should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep to role model healthy sleep habits at home. Shape Your Future (SYF) has free tools to help families rest better, including a printable sleep tracker and a quick guide to better sleep. A public health intervention focused on whole health, SYF also provides easy, healthy recipes for the whole family, fun physical activity ideas, realistic ways to cut back on sugar, and top tips for eating better to help achieve -- and maintain -- proper weight.

Swap Up, a public education campaign of the TSET Healthy Youth Initiative, aims to reduce youth obesity in Oklahoma by teaching teens how to fuel their bodies the right way. The key? Choose fresh foods instead of empty-calories … and hydrate with water. Teens 13-17 can visit SwapUpOk.com, for an interactive learning experience and follow the campaign on social media. 

While there is no simple solution to the problem of childhood obesity, helping your child – and your family -  adopt just one healthy habit today can reduce health risks.

For more meaningful ways to fight childhood obesity and help Oklahoma kids live longer, healthier lives, check out the resources available at ShapeYourFutureOK.com.

Parents concerned about their child’s weight are encouraged to talk to the child’s doctor.

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Shape Your Future is a community health education intervention that encourages Oklahomans to eat better, move more and be tobacco free. SYF strives to educate parents, teachers, caregivers and all Oklahomans on how to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Find us online at ShapeYourFutureOK.com

The TSET Healthy Youth Initiative is a statewide media effort focused on preventing and reducing tobacco use and obesity for Oklahomans ages 13-18. The initiative promotes healthy lifestyle choices for teens and gives parents resources to support their children in maintaining or developing healthy habits for a lifetime. Visit TSETHealthyYouth.com to learn more.

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working with local coalitions and initiatives across the state, cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public’s health. To learn more, visit TSET.ok.gov.  

TSET – Better Lives Through Better Health