'Let's Move' Call for Comments: My Comment

As the childhood obesity epidemic rises, and the need for treatment increases, we must also increase the capacity of communities to respond and care most effectively for obese children. Racial and ethnic minorities have a disproportionately higher rate of obesity than whites. Notable weight gain occurs earlier for Hispanic and African American children. Disparities in minorities persist in access to affordable healthcare, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, access to safe areas for physical activity and access to health information appropriate for medical decision-making.  As more US children are diagnosed with obesity and the evidence supporting physical activity and nutrition counseling, surgical treatments and pharmacotherapy for weight management in children is strengthened, clinicians lack evidenced-based community programs to assist them with the intensive treatments needed to help children achieve healthy weights. Furthermore, teens lack critical health information that could dramatically improve their health and quality of life. While many communities are dedicating resources to the prevention of childhood obesity and implementing stop-gap measures to slow the epidemic, it is important to realize that there are 9 million children seriously ill from obesity and obesity-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and depression. We need to strengthen community-based organizations by developing their capacity to implement obesity treatments and weight management programs targeting the children most affected by the epidemic; Hispanic, African American and Native American children who live in low socioeconomic areas. We need to identify centers that operate in underserved communities such as YMCAs, YWCAs and Girls and Boys Clubs, train these staff to help children eat healthier, engage in more physical activity and, most importantly, offer training in motivational interviewing that will help to address the psycho-social needs of obese teens. We need an army of people trained to help teens where they live and to help them use the resources in their communities to improve the quality of their lives as well as their long–term health outcomes.