WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

It’s a problem that continues to cause serious health issues for millions of children across the country, including in the DMV.

Dr. Yolandra Hancock, a pediatrician at Generational Health Center in Prince George’s County, said the rates have tripled over the past three decades.

“Nearly 20% of children across the country are dealing with obesity and when you look at communities of color, those statistics are even more staggering,” she said.

Over 26% of Latino children and nearly 25% of Black children are dealing with obesity over the past 30 years, according to Hancock.

She said the rise in childhood obesity is a combination of factors so it’s important to recognize that obesity is a clinical diagnosis, not a behavioral choice.

“So as much as we want to blame it on overconsumption of calories, it’s a combination of factors. It is about what children are eating,” Hancock said.

“A lot of the sugar that they’re consuming now is a lot higher than it was about 30 years ago. Levels of physical activity are much less. Even children’s sleeping patterns have been impacted by things like technology,” she added.

There are warning signs parents and caregivers should lookout for, including knowing your children’s numbers. Parents should pay attention to their child’s weight, weight trend, if they’re losing or gaining weight and how fast, according to Hancock.

“Focusing on health, not weight, is critically important, if a child is dealing with overweight or obesity,” she said. “Instead, you want to focus on health habits.”

It’s also important to pay attention to eating nutrient-rich foods and paying attention to the amount of sugar.

“Children should consume no more than about 25 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of six teaspoons. That’s inclusive of the fruit that they eat. So what you’re feeding them for breakfast, lunch and dinner plays a critical role,” she said.

How much sleep they’re getting is also important and they should achieve about 50 minutes of physical activity activity every single day. Screen time should also be limited to no more than 2 hours per day, according to Hancock.

Hancock added that it’s also important to remove a child’s phone from their bedroom or at least put it on silent so they get enough sleep.