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Dr. Matthew Davis is the Director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, and he has three important ways for Michigan and its residents to combat the spread of childhood obesity. To begin, Dr. Davis stresses that reducing childhood obesity is a key to reducing adult obesity due to the development of lifelong eating and exercise habits during childhood. He says, “We know the patterns of adult obesity are set in childhood with respect to what you choose to eat, or like to eat, and also how much physical activity you get on a regular basis.”
Davis says that the benefits of reducing obesity figures in the state will work to make us healthier in a few different ways. “If we’re healthier adults we’ll be a healthier state, not just in terms of healthcare, but also in terms of ability to work without being injured, ability to stay healthy while working, and ability to pass on healthy habits to our kids,” says Davis.
As for his three ways to combat childhood obesity, Davis begins by focusing on portion size. He says, “When we go out and even when we eat at home, oftentimes the amount of food we’re putting on our plates is just too much.”
Dr. Davis encourages people to cut their portions in half and save the other half for another meal. He says, “It saves calories, saves fat, saves cholesterol, and oftentimes, saves money by stretching your food dollar a little bit longer.”
Dr. Davis’s second idea to reduce obesity involves reducing the amount of time we spend in front of televisions and computers. Davis says that when people spend time watching a screen, whether it’s the screen of a television, computer, or handheld device, they tend to not only be stationary, burning very few calories, but also to be eating simultaneously. “What we need to do,” says Davis, “is also split our screen time in half by trying to count up the number of hours we spend on the screen each day, and then split that in half and try to meet that as a goal.” He adds, “Instead of watching the screen, be active.”
For his final way to curb childhood obesity, Dr. Davis focuses on the consumption of soda by children. Davis says reducing the amount of soda consumed by children is “likely to be the most effective intervention in terms of what kids can stop eating or stop drinking.”
For a model of reducing soda consumption amongst children, Davis points to efforts aimed at reducing the number of young smokers. Citing a drop in the number of young consumers of tobacco following an increased tax on tobacco, Davis says, “It’s time for Michigan to seriously consider taxing soda pop as a way to try to reduce youth consumption of soda pop and try to generate some revenue, some tax revenue, in the state that the state can use for public health campaigns to help fight obesity in other ways.”
- By Eliot Johnson