October 13, 2015

Last year, Kansans of all ages were urged to skip or at least cut back on soda pop due to health-related concerns.

Kansas Action for Children (KAC) went on to enlist people across the state who pledged to “Pass on Pop” at least one day a week as a way to better health.

Beyond the obvious issue of additional calories and sugar from pop — and their connection to possible weight gain — health-related areas of concern targeted by “Pass on Pop” included an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, erosion of tooth enamel and other problems.

KAC, which focuses on policies that improve quality of life for children, recently launched another health-minded initiative that benefited from the momentum of “Pass on Pop.”

“Think Big! Start Small” is a multifaceted strategy designed to help encourage healthy habits for life.

We know preventive measures help ward off serious health issues. With as much in mind, “Think Big! Start Small” is set up to reinforce four key messages intended to improve health outcomes for young children:

• Better Beverages. Choosing options such as water or low-fat milk is best for healthy development.

• Unplug Under 2. Screen time interferes with healthy brain development, and should be limited to less than two hours a day for children 2 and older.

• Breastfeeding Benefits. Advantages include reducing infants’ risk of infection and disease, and lowering mothers’ chances of health problems such as diabetes.

• Right Rewards. Teach kids healthy habits. Don’t reward good behavior with unhealthy foods, and don’t limit physical activities as punishment.

As KAC pointed out, youngsters develop habits early on that continue through adulthood. Learning healthy routines also improves chances of reducing child and adult obesity, and related health problems that can be serious and costly.

KAC is out to engage forces that influence young children and their caregivers: public health departments, day-care providers, school nurses, faith groups, grandparents and the like.

Every child deserves a solid start in life. The effort always should begin at home, and “Think Big! Start Small” promises to equip Kansans with more tools needed to ease the path to better health.

Read more from the Garden City Telegram.