​According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity prevalence among children & adolescents has almost tripled since 1980 and in 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion, averaging $1,429 higher per person than individuals of a healthy weight. Obese children are at an increased risk of developing diabetes and 70 percent have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In order to combat obesity and reduce the resulting strain on the healthcare system, policy makers and public health officials across the country have turned to banning sugary substances – from large sodas in New York City to a new proposal to ban sugary drinks in schools in Texas. But simply banning unhealthy food doesn't teach children or families how to make healthy choices. Schools and parents significantly influence children's food and exercise behaviors and what they learn at a young age affects their long term health. Schools would better serve students by teaching them how to make healthy decisions that they will carry forward for the rest of their lives. For example, First Lady Michelle Obama's Lets Move! campaign provides tools for families and children to make informed decisions about their food and promotes community involvement in helping schools and students make healthier choices. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation launched Eat Right, an online forum to help parents and students learn about healthy decision making. And one of my personal favorites, 100 Days of Real Food, shares the story of an average American family who revamped their diet to eliminate all processed foods, including refined sugar, and provides resources for readers to do the same. Regarding exercise, Cornell University just released a study that found encouraging healthy behaviors through an extra hour of physical education each week can reduce the probability of a fifth-grader becoming obese by 4.8 percent. Obese children are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, asthma, fatty liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, mental health problems and psychological issues such as depression and low self-esteem as adults, reducing their quality of life and further straining the already overloaded healthcare system. Giving children and parents the tools and know-how to make informed decisions about their eating and exercising habits will lead to better long term health for the nation. Communities are doing their residents a disservice by banning sugary drinks without also implementing a public outreach campaign to promote the message. As they say, give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. By Alicia Bandy, Senior Account Executive at Solomon McCown & Company