with healthy feeding relationships
with their children. The parent decides
what and when to eat and children if
and how much to eat.”
A key part of healthy living is
physical activity and building physical
literacy. Just as a child needs to learn
to read, she also needs to learn basic
movement skills such as running,
kicking, jumping and catching. The
higher a child’s physical literacy (see
“Balancing fun, safety and risk” on
page 30), the more likely she is to
be physically active, and stay active
“One of the barriers for some olderchildren getting involved in physicalactivities is that they feel they don’thave the skills,” says Paul Vrskovy,an exercise specialist at the PediatricCentre for Weight and Health atAlberta Children’s Hospital. “Forexample, it’s not easy, from both aphysical and social perspective, tolearn to ride a bike if you’re past theage when most children have learned
Getting help and
Through regular visits, health-careproviders, doctors, nurse practitionersand public health nurses can helpparents identify a child’s health issues,including concerns about growth.Talking about weight, however, isn’talways easy.
“Some families may have difficulty
approaching the subject of their
child’s weight or growth,” says Tesia
Bennett, a registered dietitian with
AHS, and acting program lead, Child
Management. “Parents may worry
normal it becomes to discuss, and the
less stigma will be attached to it.”
Families can discuss this in terms
of healthy living activities such as
healthy food choices and active living.
Talking about healthy growth instead
of obesity can help remove the stigma
As a chronic disease, obesity itselfit not normal, although not everyonerecognizes its early signs. TheCommunity Perinatal Care Study lookedat 450 Calgary mothers and theirchildren aged six to eight years old. Itfound 62 per cent of mothers whosechildren’s body mass index (BMI)was in the obese range thought theirchildren’s weight was acceptable.
It’s clear more awareness is neededabout healthy BMI, or healthybody weight, says the study’s leadresearcher, Dr. Sheila McDonald, anepidemiologist and research associatein the Department of Pediatrics atthe University of Calgary. “There’san opportunity for better educationregarding healthy weight andhealthy BMI.”
Obesity is a societal issue, with manyparts of society, including families,involved in its prevention. For example,AHS offers several nutrition programsto promote healthy living in families.These include Feeding Your Baby (forparents of children from newborn to12 months), Picky Eating (for parentsof toddlers and pre-schoolers), andBecome a Skilled Shopper (to helpparents make smart food choices). Thenew Healthy Parents, Health Childrenresources promote healthy pregnancyand healthy parenting (see page 28).
“It’s about setting up children for
healthy choices,” says Kally Cheung,
a registered dietitian with AHS. She
explains that AHS programs focus on:
• active living
• healthy food choices and portion
• eating together as a family
• regular meal and snack times.
Cheung adds: “Families can start
Obesity can become
a cycle that’s hard
to break, but not
Children’s BMIThe body mass index (BMI) isa weight-height calculation thatestimates body fat.
For children, the amount ofbody fat needed for properdevelopment changes with ageand differs between boys andgirls. A child’s BMI is calculatedand then plotted on a growthchart, resulting in a BMI-for-agepercentile.
Children five years or older inthe 85th to 97th percentileare considered overweight byDietitians of Canada guidelines.Above that, they’re consideredobese, and at the 99th percentile,they’re considered severelyobese. If children under five fallinto the 85th to 97th percentile,they’re considered “at risk” tobecome overweight. They’reconsidered overweight betweenthe 97th and 99th percentile, andobese if they’re above the 99thpercentile.
It’s important to remember thatthese percentiles only estimatebody fat; they don’t providepictures of overall health. Theydo, however, indicate preventionand intervention strategies maybe needed. When a child’sBMI-for-age percentile increasesquickly, or is at the 85thpercentile or higher, it’s the righttime for parents and primaryhealth-care providers to betalking and collaborating.
For BMI-for-age calculators andgrowth charts, visit the Dietitiansof Canada at dietitians.ca andclick on “Your Health” then“Assess Yourself.”