A Catholic response to childhood obesity

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November brings us not only Thanksgiving, but also National Diabetes Month. A Catholic health care organization says childhood obesity is an important concern today. 

By Deborah Proctor, President & CEO of St. Joseph Health System

In the last three decades, childhood obesity has tripled in the United States and this epidemic now plagues an estimated nine million American children. Obesity is considered one of the main causes of type 2 diabetes. As a result, it is estimated that more than one third of all children who were born in 2000 will eventually develop diabetes, either during childhood or adolescence.

This disturbing health trend has become a concern for health care professionals particularly because the reality of diabetes can be catastrophic as it progresses. With younger patients being diagnosed, the earlier the health effects will emerge such as kidney damage, nerve damage, eye disease, and coronary artery disease. All of which can happen in the prime of their lives.

As a Catholic health care organization, we think this is just not acceptable. Through the model of community collaboration and partnerships established by our founding Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange nearly 100 years ago, our response was to launch Healthy For Life, a comprehensive social and health care outreach initiative that focuses on getting kids and their families to develop healthy lifestyle choices focusing on physical activity and diet. One of the main components of the program is a school-based curriculum supplement that is in more than 100 schools impacting thousands of students.

Perhaps my favorite success story is a high school student named Otto. A poor diet and lack of activity had led to Otto being assessed as obese. He joined the Healthy For Life program and by his senior year, Otto had lost 150 pounds and served as a program ambassador to inspired other youth to get healthy and fit.

In addition, we commissioned renowned chefs Jaime Martín del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu to develop healthy, easy and affordable recipes as well as produced video demonstrations on cooking healthy meals. We partnered with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to provide information on childhood obesity. We also partnered with Radio Disney to teach healthy lifestyle habits through interactive assemblies in elementary schools.

However, addressing childhood obesity is not an easy task and we know that it will take a continuous commitment. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and we need to educate our communities on the impact this disease can have on our children and their future. Join us in our fight against childhood obesity. It’s imperative that we focus on helping children and their families choose healthy behaviors for life. We have to care together; we can’t afford not to. 


Guest blogger Deborah Proctor is President & CEO of St. Joseph Health System, an integrated Catholic health care delivery system sponsored by the St. Joseph Health Ministry.