Fairmeadow Elementary School second grade student Jonathan Cheng, center, looks at fruits and vegetables during a school lunch program in Palo Alto, Calif., in December 2010.

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Groups in Colorado hope National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which starts Monday, will bring new attention to the issue.

Colorado has earned a reputation as one of the leanest states for adults, but the state ranks right near the middle in terms of childhood obesity.

Even more troubling, the state has one of the fastest-rising childhood obesity rates in the country.

"It's concerning for sure because we know that overweight and obesity are associated with a whole host of adverse health effects," says Dr. Stephen Daniels, pediatrician in chief at Children’s Hospital. "Obesity unfortunately is one of those entities that has an adverse effect on just about every organ system in the body."

Improving diet and exercise are key, he says.

"I do think prevention is really critical, because we know that treating obesity once it develops is quite difficult," Daniel says. "The message for families is they should be tuned into this as a problem.  They should be discussing it with their pediatrician or family physician."

Children’s Hospital is hosting a community health event on the topic this week.

The American Heart Association is starting a new “teaching garden” in Thornton to encourage kids to grow and eat fruits and vegetables.