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Experts Say These Kids Need More Space to Play to Combat Obesity

Photograph by Twenty20

Childhood obesity in on the rise and has been for the past 30 years. It has doubled for young children and quadrupled for teenagers.

It’s why the CDC has dedicated the month of September to raising awareness of this growing epidemic. However, one particular segment of the population has higher obesity rates than white and black children: Latinos.

According to Salud America—an organization that supports childhood obesity awareness and is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—there are some easy ways for Latino communities to combat the problem.

"Having a safe place to play is very important," according to Dr. Amelie Ramirez, a Mexican-American health researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Ramirez tracked these trends, noting that obesity rates are higher among children who live in unsafe neighborhoods since playing outside is not ideal.

According to a study released earlier this year, 81 percent of respondents said Latino communities do not have enough access to green spaces, such as hiking trails, parks and community swimming pools. In white communities, only 38 percent said they do not have access to such spaces.

Also, more than 82 percent of white respondents say recreational areas in their communities are safe and have working, sturdy playground equipment—which is not the case in many lower-income communities.

Ramirez says she hopes parents and communities will work together to create better and more accessible recreation areas for families. One suggestion Ramirez had was opening school grounds after hours to community members, and having volunteers or paid supervision to keep the areas secure.

But getting kids moving is not the only way to combat childhood obesity.

According to Chicago-based lifestyle specialist Maisha Wynn, there are some simples steps parents can take to help their kids stay healthy, including getting kids involved in meal prep, accentuating the positive and not serving sugary drinks.

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