Obesity among children!
When we see children playing we see the occasional child with what we used to call “a little bit of puppy fat”, but somewhere in the last three decades the puppy fat has tripled and now according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)¹ 20% of the children in the United States are not just overweight but obese!
What is childhood obesity?
In children aged 2-19 obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific growth charts.
Higher Risk for Adult Obesity
Many would think this is something that children would grow out of right?
Well necessarily according to research by Cameron Chumlea PhD, professor of Community Health and Pediatrics at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
Chumlea and his colleagues found that obese children are at a high risk of being overweight as adults, not only that but the older the obese child was, the higher the risk factor for adult obesity.
Racial and Gender Factors
Surprisingly there are also racial and gender factors to the obesity crisis in our children. The CDC states that African American and Hispanic children are at a higher risk than Caucasians, with Asians having the lowest obesity rates.
Research by Steven Gortmaker PhD from Health and Human Development, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA has further shown that specifically at risk in the last 30 years are Hispanic boys and African American girls.
So where is this problem coming from?
Why the twofold increase? Well it’s a similar story to adult obesity: lack of exercise and poor dietary choices.
A healthy diet along with exercise can lower the risk of becoming obese and the associated health risks. There is no one specific item we can lay blame to, it’s an accumulative effect.
7.5 hours/day using Entertainment Media
Children rarely play outside anymore, school sports programs get cut, after school clubs receive less funding, all whilst sedentary activities increase. For example an average child aged 8-18 now spends 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media.
Kids sit in school to receive their education, and then they sit even more to watch TV, play video games, do homework on the computer, talk on the phone or view a movie.
Not to mention portion sizes increase and junk food products receive bigger and bigger marketing budgets.
How we tackle obesity among children?
The first solution to childhood obesity goes to the parents, leading by example regarding health, nutrition and fitness. If parents make healthy choices, children will follow their example.
Along with the parents is the school system. Providing education about proper nutrition and also having the facilities and opportunity to engage in physical activity.
The government plays a role too, with childhood obesity prevention programs like letsmove.gov to encourage kids to move and make healthy food choices.
With obesity health risks such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer and osteoarthritis occurring earlier and earlier in children it’s not surprising that more research is being done into childhood obesity, its causes and ways to combat this epidemic.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 July 2015.
- “Trends and Racial/ethnic Disparities in Severe Obesity among US Children and Adolescents, 1976–2006.” – WANG. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.