Tips to Beat Childhood Obesity During Summer| News | Loyola Medicine
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Loyola researcher makes recommendations to help beat childhood obesity during the summer

MAYWOOD, Ill. – In the fight against childhood obesity, summer is one of the most challenging times of the year.

During the school year, many students walk to school, go to gym class, play outside at recess and participate in after-school sports. They are allowed to eat only during designated times, and typically find little or no junk food in modern-day school cafeterias and vending machines.

“In school, you can’t keep snacking while you’re learning history,”  said Lara Dugas, PhD, MPH, a physical activity epidemiologist at Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division who has studied childhood obesity.

But during the summer months, many children have relatively little structure or supervision. This is especially true in low-income households that can’t afford summer camps. Consequently, kids get less exercise and may have unlimited access to junk food all day long.

“Many children finish the school year in June fitter and leaner than when they go back to school in August,” Dr. Dugas said.

In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, the CDC said.

To help fight the summer obesity spike, Dr. Dugas recommends getting children involved in  summer camps, sports teams and park district activities. “Such structured activities provide opportunities to benefit both their physical and cognitive development,” Dr. Dugas said.

Dr. Dugas also recommends parents try to limit the amount of junk food kids can eat. For example, she said, buy more fruits and vegetables and less salty snacks, and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. “Water is good enough,” she said.

Dr. Dugas is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.