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Can Social Media Help Fight Childhood Obesity?

We all know that social media is a powerful tool.

It provides a vital platform for business and interpersonal communication, and has changed the way we consume entertainment and information.

But can it also be used to fight childhood obesity? The answer just may be yes.


Last week the American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement that, in part, suggested that social media is a promising means of health promotion. The report summarized research findings from multiple studies on this issue, and while results varied, they stated, more research is needed in this area.

I’ll be honest. As a mom of three I try to limit my children’s access to social media as well as screen time in general. I sometimes feel guilty about the amount of time they spend online and watching television.

This issue hits close to home. I live in West Virginia, a state that consistently ranks as among the worst in terms of obesity rates for both children and adults. The statistics are grim: 28% of children in my state are either overweight or obese. Jaime Oliver even brought his Food Revolution to my hometown in 2009 with the goal of educating and increasing awareness about healthy eating.

Given the AHA’s summary finding that “staying connected through social networks may be key for maintaining a healthy weight during childhood,” I’m considering ways social media could potentially be used to improve health outcomes around obesity.

There’s no doubt that social media has great potential for reaching adolescents and teens. It can serve as a way to educate and engage them and to build community around healthy lifestyle issues. For so many, though, diet and weight are loaded topics, particularly in the teen years when self-image is still developing.

The verdict’s still out. My hope is that if public health is moving in this direction, that we’re careful to consider privacy. It has given me a lot to think about, though, and in the ever-changing world of social media, that’s a great place to start.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

 

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