Obesity continues to be a major problem for American children. Overall, obesity increased from 14 percent of children in 1999 to 18.5 percent in the current study. Youngest children ages 2-5 had the largest increase. Also, African-American and Hispanic children have higher prevalence than their white counterparts. Joe Perno, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, discussed concerns about childhood obesity.
Why is childhood obesity such a concerning problem?
It has been well documented that obese children tend to become obese adults. This leads to multiple medical complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Furthermore, childhood habits, such as poor eating and sedentary lifestyle, tend to continue later in life. The earlier obesity starts the harder it is to reverse the problem. The obesity epidemic can impact life expectancy in the United States and will likely create a significant drain on the health care system.
What can be done?
Global changes in food policy, food additives, food marketing and food assistance programs could have an enormous impact nationally. This could be especially helpful for the higher-risk children living in poverty.
With that being said, pediatricians and parents can make significant changes right now. Parents should buy health food and snacks. Children are dependent upon what we put in the pantry and refrigerator. Parents can control portion size. Also, parents should be very aware of what children are drinking as sodas and sports drinks have large amounts of unnecessary calories. Parents can encourage active outdoor play on a daily basis. Consider walking to school rather than driving a short distance. Repetitive daily exercise can go a long way to creating a healthy lifestyle.
Pediatricians should be monitoring weight at all visits and scheduling more frequent weight checks if necessary. They should be reviewing a healthy age-appropriate diet at each visit.
None of this is easy, however, if we adults join our children in these healthy habits, it will benefit everyone.
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.