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Tackling Childhood Obesity: Numbers On the Rise Again

Tackling Childhood Obesity: Numbers On the Rise Again

Fast food

By Claire Hutkins Seda, Writer, Migrant Clinicians Network, and Managing Editor, Streamline

A new study has found that childhood obesity is still rising.  Published in the March 2018 issue of Pediatrics, the research is in contrast to recent reports that have suggested that obesity among youth has recently plateaued or even decreased.  The researchers also found that rates of obesity among Hispanic and black children continue to be significantly greater than that of their white and Asian counterparts.

Obesity during childhood increases the child’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, among a litany of other serious physiological, psychological, and social consequences.  Children who have obesity are more likely to become adults with obesity -- and the health risks continue and become more severe as they enter adulthood.

As a largely mobile poor population, agricultural worker children encounter many of the same health barriers as their parents, including linguistic and cultural differences, food insecurity, fewer opportunities or safe and accessible spaces for physical activity, exposures to pesticides, high levels of stress, and fewer health resources or access to health care.  Additionally, low-income children are disproportionately exposed to advertising for fast food, sugary drinks, and other unhealthy products and habits.  A recent review of literature found that estimates ranged from 15 to 37 percent of agricultural worker children have obesity.

Health centers around the country are taking various approaches to reducing childhood obesity among agricultural worker children.  Located in the agricultural worker city of Immokalee, Florida, the Healthy Me Florida project to address childhood obesity was developed by primary care psychologists and physicians from the Florida State University College of Medicine, Immokalee Health Education Site. The Healthy Me toolkit maps out behavioral interventions for adolescents based on the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, which outlines the stages that one goes through to effectively change habits: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The toolkit presents tools for patients for each stage. In the preparation stage, the one-pager “Talking Down the Negative” enlists adolescents to respond to the negative thoughts around dietary changes with comebacks. The thought, “I’m tempted to eat” is matched with the comeback, “I can make it a group effort and help others eat better, too.”  The full program is available in English and Spanish at

Programs at school-based health centers (SBHCs) are another promising practice. SBHCs are ideal locations to provide medical management, offer ongoing support, and monitor progress over time, as students are more accessible for follow-ups or monitoring visits and peer groups are more easily formed and maintained. SBHCs are situated in predominantly low-income communities, where families struggle to access health care, serving  populations that are at higher risk for obesity and related conditions like diabetes.  The School-Based Health Alliance is offering a presentation on how telehealth can be integrated into SBHCs at their June convention. Learn more about SBHA’s convention and access resources at:

In 2016, the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research evaluated numerous programs offered by health centers to determine best practices and effective strategies in addressing childhood obesity. Their white paper, “Evaluating Community-Clinical Engagement to Address Childhood Obesity: Implications, and Recommendations for the Field,” is available on their website at NCCOR has numerous toolkits and resources for health centers at

Learn more about Health Network at:
Visit the Ventanilla de Salud website at:

The material presented in this portion of Streamline is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under cooperative agreement number U30CS09742, Technical Assistance to Community and Migrant Health Centers and Homeless for $1,094,709.00 with 0% of the total NCA project financed with non-federal sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.


MCN Streamline Summer 2018


Read this article in the Summer 2018 issue of Streamline here!

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