Childhood Obesity through Healthy Eating and Active Living

Background and Importance

Excess weight has become a prevalent problem in the United States.  Being overweight or obese can indicate an unhealthy lifestyle that puts individuals at risk for a variety of further health issues including hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Healthy lifestyles including healthy eating and regular physical activity habits begin at an early age and can be linked to a number of factors including the social and physical environment.

The societal trend toward unhealthy body weight has also occurred among children. The indicators below display the results of a recent sample of third grade students from Belknap County. The proportion of overweight or obese children in the region is higher than overall rates across New Hampshire.

Geographic Area

Percent Obese, 3rd grade students

Percent Overweight or Obese, 3rd grade students

Belknap County



New Hampshire



Data Source: NH 2013-2014 Third Grade Healthy Smiles-Healthy Growth Survey, NH DHHS.
Regional rates are statistically different and higher than overall NH rates.

Young children from lower income families in Belknap County who are served by federally funded Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs are also more likely to be obese (17.2%) compared to the state overall (14.2%).[1]

Obesity prevention can begin at birth.  Research has shown that breastfeeding not only improves the health of babies, but also of mothers who breastfeed. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as asthma, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, and breastfeeding mothers are less likely to experience postpartum depression, or develop ovarian and breast cancers, and type 2 diabetes.[2]  In New Hampshire, the percentage of babies who started breastfeeding increased from 81% in 2000 to 86% in 2010.[3]  Further, the percentage of babies being breastfed at six months of age increased from 34% in 2000 to 54% in 2010.

Regional Initiatives and Opportunities

A region-wide Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Coalition is working to address childhood obesity and chronic disease through this community health improvement plan. Regional assets and opportunities for supporting this work include:

·         Good access to natural recreational resources;

·         Trail system availability and expansion including ongoing development of the WOW trail;

·         Local farms and buy local foods initiatives;

·         Local Healthy Eating, Active Living Coalitions;

·         Motivational Interviewing training for all medical students through LRGHealthcare

·         Physical Activity and Nutrition policy development in schools, community centers and worksites.


Goals, Objectives and Strategic Approach

Goal 1

Promote healthy eating and active living at an early age to reduce the lifelong burden of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Objective 1

Reduce overweight and obesity rates among elementary school age children by 5% by 2020.

Objective 2

Reduce obesity rates among young children, ages 2-4, served by the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program by 3% by 2020.

Objective 3

Increase the percentage of women who initiate breastfeeding of newborns by 5% by 2020.


Strategic Approach

STRATEGY 1:  Increase access to healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables (community gardens, farmer's markets with EBT, gleaning, in food pantries).

STRATEGY 2:  Provide education and ongoing support to young families - especially families served by the women, infants, and children (WIC) program - on budgeting, shopping, and cooking healthy meals.

STRATEGY 3:  Partner with schools to implement best practices in promoting healthy eating and physical activity.

STRATEGY 4:  Promote livable, walkable community design.

STRATEGY 5:  Support safe, accessible public spaces for physical activity (parks, trails, sidewalks, bike paths, good lighting).

STRATEGY 6:  Work with patients and regional providers of perinatal services, such as the LRGHealthcare Family Birthplace, to review and improve current strategies for promoting breastfeeding.

[1] NH WIC enrolled children ages 2-4, 2012-2013; accessed by NH Health WISDOM, 2015.

[2] Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services . Retrieved from

[3]  Press Release. New Hampshire Breastfeeding Rates Rise Along With Decrease In Obesity Among Low-Income Children. Maternal and Child Health, NH Department of Health and Human Services. Publish Date: August 16, 2013oon...

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