Sunday, March 28, 2010

Childhood Obesity: How can Counselors Help?

Worcester Medicine, a publication by the Worcester District Medical Society, focused on Childhood Obesity for the Mar/April 2010 edition.

According to the current statistics by the Centers for Disease Control on Janauary 22d, 2010, two thirds of adults and one fifth of children are overweight or obese and 20% of youths have abnormal lipid levels (Lebow, 2010, p 18).

As counselors, we are aware of the adverse effects of the poverty that attribute to high obesity levels in our clients such as the high costs and unavailaiblity to buy healthy foods; increase television watching (which commercials promote fat foods toward children) and computer use and addiction; lack of physical space for recreational activities and exercise; and parents/caretakers not being educated on healthy foods preparation for their children.

The medical community in Worcester are taking steps to promote healthy eating for children through the use of different programs in the elementary schools, the communities; and in the doctor's offices. In addition, the State of Massachusetts has launched a new website entitled, "Mass in Motion", which focuses on healthy eating choices and physical exercise.

What can the counseling profession do to help decrease obesity in our clients?

Here are some suggestions:

Individual/Family: I support physical exercise as a viable option for children and teens to use as a coping skill to decrease their mental health symptoms as part of their treatment plans. I encourage all clients to check with their primary care physician first before engaging in any exercise program. I also ask that families to engage in a physical activity such as going for walks to increase bonding time with their children and/or having a sit down dinner with healthy foods.

Clinic/Agency: Why not have brochures and resources available in the waiting room for families to peruse while they are waiting for us to see them? Counselors can also give out these materials to their clients, if relevant, during the sessions.

Community/State:Is it possible for state chapters from the Social Work; Psychologists, and Mental Health entities to sponsor local programs for their clients and/or training sessions for their colleagues for CEU credit on the above topic? Also, these entities can have their voices heard when their state legislatures want to propose a tax on a candy and soda to decrease consumption use by children. In Masachachusetts, this tax idea has opposition from a few state legislators and the medical community for a variety of reasons.

Federal: National Associations from above can have their voices heard in promoting the government's agenda to decrease obesity and to increase healthier eating and lifestyles for children across the US. Also, the advocacy personnel and/or lobbyists from these entities can meet with Congress to provide their input and ideas as well.

What do you think?

Robbin Miller, LMHC


Lebow, R. (2010). How can we lighten a heavy problem? Worcester Medicine:Worcester District Medical Society.