Healthy Lifestyles, Healthy Families, Healthy Children with Shari Barkin
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Dr. Shari Barkin talks about the importance of healthy lifestyles for families and children.
Nashville Farmers' Market
Second Harvest Food Bank
Laura Osterman: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Laura Osterman with Health Plus. Obesity now affects one in six children and adolescents in the United States. Healthy lifestyle and well-child visits play an important role. We are here today with Dr. Shari Barkin, Professor of Pediatrics, Division Chief of General Pediatrics, Director of Pediatric Obesity Research, DTRC, and William K. Warren Foundation Chair. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Shari Barkin: I am happy to be here.
Laura Osterman: Can you tell us about your work and why weight and healthy lifestyle is an important issue for families to be aware of?
Dr. Shari Barkin: We try very hard not to focus only on weight. In fact, we know that body mass index (BMI) by itself is merely a marker. It is not necessarily an explanation for everything that we have been seeing in terms of poor health. What we do is we focus on healthy lifestyle, and we make sure that we do this not one child at a time but one family at a time. We know that children are six times more likely to be physically active if their parents are, so being physically active is good for your health. Regardless of whether it changes your weight, it improves your health and your health outcomes. This is important because not only does that make you healthier in childhood, but it also makes you healthier in adulthood.
Laura Osterman: How do well-child visits play a role and how is weight evaluated?
Dr. Shari Barkin: Well-child visits are an opportunity for families to sit down with their primary care provider on a regular basis and see how their child is growing and developing. It is an opportunity to ensure wellness to prevent problems before they happen. When it comes to obesity, prevention is really the only thing that has been shown to work consistently. It is much harder once you are overweight or obese to lose that weight and keep it off no matter how dedicated people are, and that is why we really focus during the well-child visit to keep children well and to also encourage families to support their own family wellness.
Laura Osterman: Can you tell us some more about the healthy lifestyle? What does this mean and what does this look like for families?
Dr. Shari Barkin: When we talk about healthy lifestyle, we are really talking about behaviors in the context of your home and your neighborhood where you are together with your family, and so that looks like a lot of things. It looks like what you buy at the grocery store. It looks like what is easy to find in your refrigerator when your children are hungry and they would like a snack. It looks like sitting down for dinner together and slowing down. The average American takes about 11 minutes to eat their meal, but it takes about 20 to 30 minutes for your brain to know you are full. If you can slow down enough as a family to enjoy each other’s company as well as the meal in front of you, you can let your body do what is supposed to do to really maintain health and enjoy each other through the process. Healthy lifestyle looks like making sure you go to sleep at a good time and support good consolidation of sleep, not just for the child but for the parent too. It helps your behavior, it helps your development, and we also know that it helps set your metabolism and your appetite and whether you are hungry for carbohydrates or you are prepared to have a healthy meal when you wake up. So, it looks like a lot of things. It sounds easy, but we know, in people’s busy lifestyle, it is sometimes challenging. So, being intentional about how we live our lives and we maintain wellness is really critical.
Laura Osterman: What role does the community play? What kind of resources are available?
Dr. Shari Barkin: Well, we live in context, and that means we need to see our health in terms of ourselves in context. We live in communities, and we are lucky in Nashville the community provides a tremendous amount of resources, many of which are at relatively low cost or even free. So, some great examples, Metro Parks and Recreation if you happen to live in Davidson County, for example. There are 24 recreation centers. Many of the activities are free or very low cost, $2 or $3 for a Zumba class, for example. In our work, we have been working with parks and recreation to enhance family programming, so you can be physically active with your child. It is not one at a time, it is all together. So, that is one example. There are some beautiful greenways for people to get out and utilize and it cost $0. We have opportunities for fresh food farmers’ markets that are available, and sometimes, it seems that healthy food are less accessible, but at least in Nashville, we have mobile food markets, we have second harvest food bank that provides teaching kitchens and provides food boxes, so we have a lot more resources here in this community, and it allows you to connect with those resources and also those opportunities to be healthy as a family.
Laura Osterman: Thank you so much your time today. We will include links and resources at the bottom of this page.
Dr. Shari Barkin: Thank you.
Laura Osterman: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or you can use the “Contact Us” page on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu.
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