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Childhood Obesity in the United States: Is it an Epidemic?

By Senior Editor
Food Pyramid -

Childhood obesity in the united states - is it an apidemic?For a number of years, health professionals in the United States have known the consequences of overweight and obese conditions in adults. However, over the course of the past thirty years or so, there has been increased concern and attention regarding the issue of childhood obesity in the United States. There are varying opinions as to what factors significantly contribute to increased childhood obesity in comparison to years past. Some health professionals posit that the main contributors range from genetic predisposition to the increase in sedentary lifestyles many of the youth in America ascribe to today. A number of disciplines have developed approaches to address these concerns that our modern day children present. However, these approaches seem to only address one component of a problem that has proven to be multifaceted. Applied separately, these approaches still leave us with the problem of a steady and significant increase in childhood obesity.

There are any numbers of health factors that can be directly attributed to maintaining a body weight in excess of acceptable and health based parameters. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated by dividing weight by height squared. Alternatively you could use a BMI Calculator. Overweight or obesity is defined as having a (BMI) above the 95th percentile on the gender specific BMI growth charts. The discernable increase in childhood obesity can be seen in the statistical analysis conducted by the Department of Health and Nutrition. In a comparison of the rate of obesity in children and adolescents between 1963-1965 and 2007-2008, researchers found:

  • Obesity in children ages 2 to 5 increased by 5% to 10.4% of US children.
  • Obesity in children ages 6 to 11 increased by 13.1% to 19.6%.
  • Obesity in adolescents ages 12 to 19 increased by 13% to 18.1%.

Although studies as to the causes of childhood obesity has not been as extensive as the research with adults, there have been a number of health related issues noted with children that continue to rise as our youth population continues to add unwanted pounds. Short-term health issues that have been noted by pediatricians and other health professionals include asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, hyper-insulinemia, and hypertension. More pervasive health issues that include high blood pressure, type II diabetes and coronary heart disease are now being found at an alarming rate with our children.

Because of the steady rise in the numbers of children medically determined to be obese as well as the significant rates in which children are diagnosed with what used to be illnesses reserved for adults, health professionals have begun to regard this as an epidemic in the United States as well as many other industrialized countries. For the first time, the possibility that children of this generation may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents has caused many communities, families and individuals to partner with health professionals to find ways to immediately remediate this situation.

Encouraging our youth to become more physically active is the first step in stemming the tide in childhood obesity. From the White House, initiatives for increased physical activity are being encouraged as well as maintaining healthy well balanced diets. All agree it will take a societal effort to encourage our children in this way. And the first step for many is having the example set by parents, teachers, and other significant adults in their lives as to what overall health and fitness can do in promoting a long and healthy life.

References:
www.emedicinehealth.com
www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html

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