Intermountain Healthcare

Creating Healthy Kid Behaviors Only Takes Simple Steps


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/02/2021 --In the last year, lifestyle changes sparked by society's reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to more time at home, more time in front of a screen and a propensity for more frequent snacking.

"We call it the COVID diet," said Daniel Cannon, MD, pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare Red Rock Pediatrics in St. George, Utah. "We've seen a real uptick in weight gain in a lot of kids."

Although the problem may have increased due to factors related to COVID-19-era lifestyles, it's definitely not the first time medical professionals have seen this problem.

"Childhood obesity is basically an epidemic," Dr. Cannon said.

The problem stems from an increasingly unhealthy lifestyle in children and adolescents; behaviors sometimes learned from generations of family obesity. Other times the cause may be a lack of education on the topic of health, poverty, home environment, accessibility of healthcare and healthy nutrition, and more.

"We call these 'social determinants of health,'" Dr. Cannon said, adding that these determinants and others are screened for and discussed at each well visit in order to identify concerning trends before they become a problem.

"We try to be as objective and straight forward as possible, talking about what is healthy and what is not," said Dr. Cannon.

Even so, discussing issues such as obesity with impressionable minds can be complicated. Dr. Cannon saif he and his colleagues are careful to emphasize healthy behaviors, rather than focusing on reaching a number on the scale.

"I try to focus on simple goals that are very specific," explained Dr. Cannon. "For example, a lot of kids struggle with too much sugar in their diet — either eating or drinking it. We talk about replacing some of those sugary drinks with water and increasing water consumption for a specific amount of time."

When it comes to increasing activity in children and young adults, Dr. Cannon said it is best to find something the child is interested in and build activity around that.

"It doesn't really matter what they do as long as they're doing something," he said. "If they like walking their dog, we set a goal to walk the dog three times a week for at least 30 minutes each time."

It's these kinds of behaviors and more that the national Every Kid Healthy Week focuses on as well. As part of an annual observance to celebrate school health and wellness achievements, Every Kid Healthy encourages schools and parents to focus on healthy behaviors this week, including social and emotional health, nutrition and food access, self-care, relationship skills and physical activity, according to

One way to stay on top of these areas of a child's health is to follow up with regular physician well checks. Even if you've missed the last few well visits with your child, Dr. Cannon said, it's not too late to get back on track.

"Parents sometimes think the only reason to go to a pediatrician is to get their shots, but that's not really the case," Dr. Cannon says. "There are a lot of things we find during regular wellness screenings and we have resources we can plug families into if necessary."

So whether it is Every Kid Healthy Week, or one of the other 51 weeks in the year, starting small with simple, actionable goals is the key to better health and overall success.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Red Rock Pediatrics is part of Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit system of 25 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.