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In previous years, when it came to our children, especially in the Black community, parents’ top concerns were providing for their children, making sure they were getting a good education and making sure they were staying off the streets. But now that list has been amended and steadily climbing to the top is childhood obesity.

Like in many other health instances, African-Americans are at higher risk than any other ethnicity for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other health issue resulting from being overweight. And it’s now affecting our children.

ALL IN THE FAMILY—From left: Keylen Kenney, 7; Shamara Hodges, mom; Ari Martin, 10; and in front Azure Martin, 5, spend the evening learning about being a healthy family at the AHA Healthy Family Training Camp. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

To beat the odds and get heart rates up about healthy living, the Greater Pittsburgh area American Heart Association held their annual Healthy Family Training Camp on June 22 at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA in Homewood.

“Childhood obesity is the number one worry among parents, it used to be smoking and drug abuse,” said Karen Colbert, regional director of communications of the American Heart Association Greater Pittsburgh area. “This program is good because mixed in with all the fun, we are also trying to instill an important message which is that heart disease can be prevented. It’s all about the family taking a stand and saying, ‘lets be proactive and lets be healthier.’”

Colbert added that statistics reveal that 70-80 percent of overweight children have a chance of staying overweight and becoming overweight adults.

Some of the contributing factors to this growing problem are increased portion sizes, poor nutrition, increase eating out, and less activity, in part to technology advances.

“We, as a society, are eating more calories than we are burning. All this technology has made society less active,” she said.

This was the third year for the Heart Association’s Healthy Family Training Camp, which is partnered with the YMCA, Children’s Hospital of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh’s athletics. It was also the first year it was held at the Homewood-Brushton Y. While last year’s camp brought 160 families together to promote healthy living, this year approximately 200 families participated in the healthy life saving program.

The camp focused on portion control and what is a healthy portion; just what is enough physical activity, CPR and more. Families also participated in obstacle courses, relay races and food demonstrations. Children also were able to interact with some of Pitt’s athletes and families had the opportunity to dance with line dance king Roland Ford.

“The kids get excited by the athletes and when the athletes talk about physical activity, they (the kids) are getting the message,” she said. “This camp is not meant to be work, it’s meant to be fun.”

Colbert also said that while the families who attended the camp were selected by Children’s Hospital, the association wants the message to reach all populations, especially underserved ones.

“We (the association) would love to offer this program to everyone but we cannot. We hope that the families who attended will take the information back to their families, neighborhoods, friends and get the message out,” she said.

Although it is important for children to put down the video games and get active, it also takes involvements from parents. Colbert said it’s important for parents to set the example and get involved because they shape their children’s lives and their views toward healthy living.

She added that experts are predicting that if things continue, today’s children are not expected to live as long as their parents. This is the first generation that this is expected to happen to.

Obesity does not have to be our children’s future.

(For more information on health tips or the AHA, visit http://www.heart.org.)

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