By Mimi Johnson, NCL Director of Health Policy
With new reports that girls are hitting puberty at alarmingly young ages and as the nation increasingly focuses on the obesity epidemic ravaging our youth, we need to remember that they are still children.
We’ve created an environment that pins children against typically adult problems. Diabetes. Early signs of heart disease. Early puberty – and all that comes with it. We need to remember, however, that they are still kids beneath it all and we need to treat them in a way that they can emotionally and psychologically understand.
The BBC reported recently on a girl who had stopped eating because she saw a letter that contained the results of a national health survey, which found that she was overweight. Her solution? She decided she needed to stop eating. While we as society recognize that the younger generation is not as fit as they should be, and that it can have long-lasting effects on their health and society, we also need to develop better ways of addressing it. In other words, our solution should not encourage an 11-year-old girl to lose weight by inadvertently drive her to anorexia.
When we talk about behavior change in adults, we often emphasize the importance of meeting them where they are. The First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign is a wonderfully kid-appropriate effort to combat childhood obesity.
Remember, just because she’s hit puberty earlier does not mean we should encourage them to abandon their youth altogether.