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Childhood Obesity: Let’s Encourage Healthy Behavior in Louisiana’s Children

By Catherine Palmier, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare-Northeast and Southeast Region

Did you know that thirty-two percent of all US children are overweight or obese and most will go on to become obese adults?

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, going from 5% to nearly 20%. While National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month is observed in September, these alarming statistics need to be discussed year-round. We must remind youth, parents and community leaders about this growing epidemic which can be controlled through education. We must provide parents and children with the necessary tools to be able to make smarter lifestyle choices.

Below are some facts and tips on how we can encourage healthy behavior in Louisiana’s children:

According to UnitedHealth Foundation's America's Health Rankings:

  • Obesity is on a path to account for one-fifth of our national health care spending by the end of the decade.

  • In Louisiana, obesity remains high at 34.7 percent of the adult population, with more than 1.2 million obese adults. Also, over 1.0 million adults are physically inactive.

  • Obesity in childhood is closely linked to Adult Obesity

  • Obesity in both childhood and adulthood is linked to High Blood pressure, Diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and kidney disease

Nutrition tips:

  • Have your kids help in the kitchen, packing a healthy lunch or making a nutritious dinner.

  • Cut back on sweet treats including sodas. Have a basket of fruit and vegetables out for kids to snack on throughout the day and exchange soda for 100% fruit juice with carbonated water.

  • Avoid processed foods, they are generally high in sugar.

  • Have your kids try one new food every week; you never know – your son or daughter might love pomegranates too!

  • Experiment with smoothies. Carrots, spinach, a handful of berries and some low-fat yogurt make a delicious and nutritious treat. Kids will think it is dessert!

Activity tips:

  • Replace computer or TV time with something active like walking the dog with you, carrying the groceries, raking leaves or dancing to their favorite music.

  • Encourage kids to join a sports team.

  • Some city recreation centers have indoor pools for a nominal fee, go swimming.

  • If you belong to a gym, take your child with you. Many gyms have a childcare center with lots of activities to entertain kids while mom and dad are working out.

  • Take kids to the playground or to the park to play.

Let’s face this challenge together, Louisiana, so we can ensure healthier lives for our children and for future generations.


Catherine Palmier, M.D, is a Board Certified Pediatrician and a seasoned managed care physician. Currently she serves as Chief Medical Officer, of the Northeast and Southeast Region, for UnitedHealthcare. In this role she is responsible for health care of approximately 12 million members in these regions. Her experience in pediatric care includes work as a Pediatric Hospitalist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Academic Appointments and Faculty Practice at The University of Maryland, and University of Texas. In addition she has served as the Medical Director of a Clinic for uninsured/Medicaid eligible children at the Southeast Texas Community Health Clinic in Beaumont, TX, for which Dr. Palmier received an award for Volunteerism in 1992 from TX Governor Ann Richards.

Prior to joining UnitedHealthcare in 2002, Cathy worked with Aetna US Healthcare in Philadelphia, Dallas, and Atlanta, where she also served as the Regional Medical Director. While she has been at UHC she has worked with both National and Regional Initiatives, and was a member of the class of 2005 for the President's Leadership Development Program (PLDP).

In addition to her current work at UHC in NE and SE Region, she has continued to care for pediatric patients through the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Immediate Care Network. Cathy also serves as a volunteer for “Happy Tails”, an organization which provides Pet Therapy at local health care facilities along with her two Labrador Retrievers, and French Bulldog.

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