The campaign to get churches involved in the fight against childhood obesity is picking up steam heading into 2013, with a little help from New Year’s resolutions. Barbara Baylor, the United Church of Christ’s minister for health care justice, wants to see children get or remain active by starting 2013 with achievable, fun goals that encourage health on a variety of levels.
“Usually you say you want to lose 10 pounds,” Baylor said. “Think about broadening the goal beyond physical health. You have to be healthy on a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social level. They all come together. If you feel good about yourself spiritually, it impacts your physical health.”
The United Church of Christ is helping children fight childhood obesity through a partnership with the White House in a nationwide initiative, the Campaign for Healthy Kids, started by first lady Michelle Obama.
The UCC and other mainline denominations are working with the Campaign for Health Kids project (CHK) and Faith United to End Childhood Obesity to assist the first lady expand grassroots participation in the Let’s Move! initiative. The UCC was one of the first faith groups to join the national movement two years ago, an effort to end childhood obesity and increase awareness among adults about diseases (diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer, for example) associated with weight gain.
The White House is concentrating on seven states, (Ohio, Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) organizing participation of 1,000 faith leaders from a number of faith congregations, including the UCC. Those leaders are charged with promoting nutrition and physical activity to get kids to understand and embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Baylor says UCC churches in Wisconsin, Colorado and Ohio have had “great participation” in the program and she’s working with conference ministers to arrange and encourage UCC participation at future Let’s Move! events.
Baylor says there are also ways congregations can encourage healthy lifestyles. “What is it in a congregation that helps keep people well?” she asks. “Churches can keep in mind to have more people walking and being mindful of their health in their lives.”
Childhood obesity rates in America have tripled in the last three decades, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are higher in African American and Hispanic communities, and if the problem isn’t addressed, one-third of all children born after 2000 will likely develop diabetes.
To sign on as a Let’s Move Faith Community and make 2013 a healthier year for children, visit the UCC’s Let’s Move website. Registrants should list ‘United Church of Christ’ as the denomination, and enter ‘Faith United to End Childhood Obesity’ in the comments section.
A Let’s Move toolkit is also available for download.