December 5, 2018
By Ashley Lombardo, Communications and Social Media Specialist, Family Support Services of Northeast Florida
To support a person’s well-being means addressing their physical, mental and emotional health. Family Support Services of North Florida (FSSNF), one of more than 70 United Way-funded partners, is a leading agency for foster care, adoption and family preservation in Duval and Nassau counties. Through its family preservation department, FSSNF provides holistic short-term, family-centered services that are designed to support families during times of crisis. Though there are numerous issues facing the health of children in this population, childhood diabetes is one of the most prevalent.
According to the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, approximately 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 200,000 of those diagnosed are 20 years old or younger. More concerning is that the prevalence of this disease among children (type 1 and type 2) is on the rise. Multiple studies indicates children flourish when they are able to receive the help they need while in their own home.
How does one proactively address this issue? Especially within families who have experienced crisis?
The key to prevention is understanding how and why the disease affects particular children and creating a plan to combat it. Here are some suggestions you should adopt if your child or a child you know is at risk of developing diabetes:
Make a Schedule
Maintaining a schedule of appointments and doctor visits is important for any family, but this is a common issues for families seeking family preservation services. Serious diseases such as childhood diabetes can often be avoided by being deliberate in planning doctor appointments. For resources to cover the cost of medical appointments and transportation, contact United Way’s free community helpline 2-1-1.
Get More Active
Getting more active is an easy fix; however, it’s easy to forget physical activity is not only great for children, it’s also vital to their health. Physical activity can also be fun. Try taking a walk, enjoying an outdoor market, going for a swim at the beach.You can even use technology like the Nintendo Wii and play a game together. Whatever your style, get moving and encourage your entire family to do the same.
Create a Balanced Diet
Takeout, delivery or fast foods are easy, cheap and quick, but they are also a reason many Americans face various diseases. Children fall victim to the same eating habits as their caregivers. Thus, it’s essential to set a precedent for yourself as well by carving out a dietary plan that requires you to follow the same guidelines.
Here are some steps you can take to improve your eating habits:
- Cut back on sugary sweets and drinks. Instead of soda, switch to water or an all fruit-based juice.
- Skip the fast-food. If you must, select something grilled. You can also switch out the fries for a healthier side item and choose bottled water or unsweet tea instead of soft drinks.
- Encourage healthier snacking. Eating small meals multiple times a day is a great way to boost the metabolism, but that’s only if your child is eating the right things. Avoid anything high in sugar or fat and recommend fresh vegetables, fruits and other items that children enjoy but are also nutritionally dense (yogurt, raisins, popcorn, etc.).
- Practice carb counting when appropriate. This doesn’t mean eliminating carbohydrates from your family’s diet, but instead being more calculated about the types and frequency they’re consuming.
Limit Sedentary Time
Limiting sedentary time, specifically screen time, is a big deal for kids. Almost anyone can argue kids, and adults alike, spend too much time behind a computer or mobile screen. Being intentional about times cell phones, computers and video games are off limits will not only help combat diabetes, it will also lower anxiety levels, increase sleep quality and boost overall mood.
Creating an appointment schedule, maintaining a well-balanced diet, increasing physical activity and limiting excess sedentary time are great places to work towards of a healthier lifestyle. By embracing these changes and positively encouraging that your family and children do the same, you can not only be proactive about stomping out childhood diabetes, but you can also strengthen the longevity of your life and overall well-being of your entire family unit.
How you can help
With the support of United Way, agencies like Family Support Services are able to help individuals in Northeast Florida have hope and reach their full potential. Through the power of partnerships, we ensure families and individuals have access to timely health-care services, better health outcomes and fewer health disparities. To learn how you can join United Way in the fight for community change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.