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IOM Addresses Prevention of Obesity in Young Children

Report provides recommendations for doctors, child care centers, schools

FRIDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- Encouraging more physical activity and limiting television and other media use as well as requiring child care providers to promote healthy sleeping practices are a few of the recommendations in a new report from the Institute of Medicine that is part of an effort to reduce obesity in very young children.

The report provides recommendations for child care centers, preschools, pediatricians, federal nutrition programs, and other facilities and programs to follow to prevent obesity in infants through 5-year-olds. The report recommends that health care providers measure infants' weight and length and the body mass index of young children at every well-child visit and identify children at risk for obesity. The report also recommends that regulatory agencies require child care providers to promote healthy sleep durations in their facilities and that pediatricians, early childhood educators, and other professionals counsel parents about age-appropriate sleep times and good sleep habits.

Child care providers and early childhood educators should also encourage infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to be physically active throughout the day as well as limit television viewing and use of computers, mobile devices, and other digital technologies to less than two hours per day for children between the ages of 2 and 5 years, according to the report. It also recommends that all child care facilities and preschools should follow the meal patterns established by the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program.

"Contrary to the common perception that chubby babies are healthy babies and will naturally outgrow their baby fat, excess weight tends to persist," committee chair Leann Birch, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, said in a statement. "This is a national concern because weight-related conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure once occurred almost exclusively in adults but are now occurring at rising rates among teens and young adults. Child care providers, health professionals, and policymakers can be helpful partners to parents in reducing obesity risk by creating healthy environments and implementing positive practices during the crucial early years of development."

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