Children and adolescents

  Population considerations:

  • Family influence. During this time of life, children are socialized by their families into certain daily practices and behaviors which may increase risk for future cardiovascular disease (Blackburn, 1980). If parents eat unhealthy foods and do not exercise, their children may be more likely to behave similarly (Norton, 2003).
  • Healthcare provider influence.  Health care providers play an important role in helping children and adolescents maintain or achieve a healthy weight and in preventing future obesity. The Healthcare Work Group from the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition (MoCAN) has developed a Tool Kit to help providers effectively screen, assess and treat youth with weight issues. The Tool Kit resources summarize recommendations from the scientific literature and expert work groups related to child and adolescent obesity.

  • Access to resources. Children and adolescents may not have a place to go in their neighborhood to be physically active (e.g., a park or playground, a school or a community center) (Rees, 2006).  Likewise, some children may not have access to healthy foods near their homes or at school.
  • Peer influence. Peer influences have become increasingly important to children and adolescents, with peers influencing the amount and type of physical activity in which they participate (Pender 1998). Some young people may not be physically active because they are self-conscious about their appearance (Rees, 2006).

  Strategies to address considerations:

  • Offer school health programs. School health programs can help children and adolescents attain full educational potential and good health by providing them with the skills, social support, and environmental reinforcement they need to adopt long-term, healthy eating behaviors (CDC, 1996).
  • Develop transportation options. Public transportation systems can be put in place to encourage adolescents to take part in youth-focused physical activities at various community centers (Rees, 2006).  To increase physical activity when going from home to school, think about creating safe walking and biking paths (Saksvig, 2007).

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