September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Research shows that 18 percent of children aged 6-11 years in the United States are obese. This means that one in every five children suffers from obesity, although some kids are more prone to the condition than others. Childhood obesity increases health risks, and diseases such as diabetes that were once perceived to only affect adults are starting to affect children as well.

Here are a few ways to engage your community in the fight against childhood obesity.

Promote fitness-focused play

Playtime on a safe, engaging kids outdoor playground can be a major contributor to physical activity and to overall health. In fact, the latest playground equipment designs are becoming more fitness focused, with features designed to help kids build stronger bones and muscles and improve balance. We can provide kids with fitness benefits to aid in their overall development as well as prevent obesity.

Encourage imagination and interaction

Experts say that kids consider playtime a source of happiness. In addition to the physical benefits they provide, preschool playground equipment can also serve as sources of interaction, engagement, discovery, and cooperation as well as increased creativity. These added benefits offer kids an enjoyable alternative to sedentary activities such as playing video games, which are all too often accompanied by consumption of high-fat snacks and sugary sodas.

Build community support

Healthy living should start at the family level, with nutritious food choices and adequate water consumption. However, the community can also help in the process by raising awareness and offering outdoor activities that are fun, affordable, and safe. By building playgrounds, schools, churches, and neighborhoods can encourage physical activity while also fostering a stronger sense of community among kids and parents.

Childhood obesity is a national problem, but it can be prevented. Studies show that kids who are physically active have better health, participate more in class, and score well on tests, so encourage the families in your community to unite behind the cause of raising fit, healthy kids today.