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Employers must care about your children’s health

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Bridget Clementi
November 14, 2007

Many area companies have initiated wellness programs to manage rising health care costs. Employers realize that many of these costs are related to poor lifestyle choices that lead to catastrophic conditions such as heart ailments, early-onset diabetes and lung cancer.


If employers want to help ensure the health and well-being of employees and end this cycle of rising costs, they need to start targeting the next generation’s workforce now.


“Research indicates that obese children are likely to continue to be obese as adults unless considerable lifestyle changes occur,” said Brian M. Fidlin, PsyD, program director of NEW Kids (Nutrition, Exercise, and Weight Management) at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Obesity also increases the risk that they’ll have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe asthma and many more ailments.


“Making the necessary lifestyle changes to address the obesity not only improves their present quality of life but also their future in a variety of ways,” Fidlin said.


Some companies believe the responsibility of encouraging children to be healthy lies with parents and schools. A quick look at statistics shows everyone needs to get involved, as the obesity rate for adolescents tripled nationally in the last 30 years.


There are several options for companies to get involved.


n Expand your wellness initiatives into employees’ homes. Consider adding child-focused materials, such as an educational coloring books or activities to the information you send home with your employees.


n Educate your employees on the importance of physical activity for their children. Encourage them to turn the TV off for at least an hour and start moving.


n Set a good example at your company’s events. Resist the urge to overload food tables with chips, cakes and sugary beverages. Create a fun, healthy menu with nonfatty items and colorful foods. A veggie pizza-making table with a nutritionist to explain the importance of the toppings could make learning fun.


n During “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” make a presentation about why your company cares about the health of its workers and their families. Share these numbers: cardiovascular diseases cost the United States more than $300 billion each year, and obesity costs as much as $117 billion a year.


n Choose community programs that focus on healthy behaviors for your sponsorships. As part of your sponsorship, you could send healthy snacks or bring in a nutritionist to talk about appropriate portions or good food choices.


n Consider sponsoring an in-class curriculum to teach children how to make smart choices related to food, drugs and smoking. Through our educational programming, Children’s Health Education Center is already working to decrease the likelihood that children will experiment with drugs, smoke, or engage in other unsafe behaviors. But we all need to get involved to help our children get excited about being healthy.


Bridget Clementi is the interim executive director of Children’s Health Education Center, a member of Children’s Hospital and Health System. Address 1533 N. RiverCenter Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53212; phone (414) 765-9355.

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