By Taylor Dahl

According to the Center for Disease Control, 36 percent of adolescents aged 6 to 19 are overweight; 16.3 percent of children aged 2 to 19 are obese. That means half of our nation’s youth are either obese or overweight.

Georgia is no exception. It has the 12th highest rate of overweight youth in the nation. “There are many factors to obesity,” says Ruth Bell, program coordinator for child health promotion of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “The primary reason is the caloric imbalance. This is happening because of sedentary behaviors, portion sizes and genetic predispositions.”

November is Childhood Obesity Month. To raise awareness, Children’s Health Care of Atlanta is offering programs to educate children and their families about the benefits of healthy living.

Fit Kids is a six-week program for children aged 6-12 that encourages healthier eating choices, physical activity and boosts kids’ self-esteem. “One of the lessons we do involves pictures,” Bell says. “We lay a variety of pictures of people in different sizes, shapes and appearances. We ask the children to pick out who is healthy, who’s not healthy and who they’re unsure of. We teach them that size doesn’t equal health.”

In addition to Fit Kids, Children’s also offers TIPPS, a program for older kids aged 12 to 17 who are at risk for diabetes. The programs may be targeted to specific age groups, but they embrace educating the entire family, acknowledging that the most affective way to combat childhood obesity is to help the family make better lifestyle choices.

“All children are at risk for obesity,” says Kimberly New, clinical program manager for Children’s Healthy Lifestyle Team. “[It] can reduce a life by two to five years.” Obesity has been linked to health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory problems coronary heart disease, hypertension, and endometrial, breast and colon cancers in both adults and children. “There are also psychological and social impacts that can really affect the growth and development of a child,” New adds.

The biggest key to success is the commitment to change. If your family is ready, go to