Pediatric obesity is a health problem with clear cut solutions, yet it is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six children across America is obese. In North Carolina the obesity rate breaks down this way:
15% of 2 to 4-year-olds are considered to be obese
30.9% of 10 to 17-year-olds are considered to be obese
In fact, in NC we rank 7th in the nation for teen obesity (and 16th for adults).
Pediatric obesity is not just a problem of being “overweight.” These children often deal with bullying, low self-esteem, and fatigue. And into adulthood, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other health problems.
BMI and Obesity
BMI (body mass index) is the way a person is determined to be overweight and obese. It is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters.
Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.
CDC provides this example “…a 10-year-old boy of average height (56 inches) who weighs 102 pounds would have a BMI of 22.9 kg/m2. This would place the boy in the 95th percentile for BMI, and he would be considered as obese. This means that the child’s BMI is greater than the BMI of 95% of 10-year-old boys in the reference population.
There was a National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2015-16. It is conducted every two years. Data was accumulated from 3,340 children participating in the survey. Obesity for preschool boys jumped from 8.5% to 14.2%. It rose even more dramatically for girls in the 16-19 age bracket, from 35.6% to 47.9%!
Controlling Childhood Obesity
While more difficult to control factors such as genetics and metabolism have effects on obesity, the CDC reports that there are easily controllable factors that can have an impact on childhood obesity. These include family & home environment, community & social factors, and eating & physical activity behaviors,
Let’s just look at one area (there are several of course) in these three categories where a simple parental adjustment, could make a world of difference.
Family & Home Environment – Children and adults who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep. That’s from the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise, decreasing the “calories burned” side of the weight-change equation.
- People who don’t get enough sleep may take in more calories than those who do, simply because they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat;
- Lack of sleep also disrupts the balance of key hormones that control appetite, so sleep-deprived people may be hungrier than those who get enough rest each night.
Community & Social Factors.– The National Center for Biotechnology Information issued a report that explored what parents working together as a community can do to stem the tide of obesity. Many factors in the community setting affect the health of children and youth
- Does the design of the neighborhood encourage physical activity?
- Do community facilities for entertainment and recreation exist, are they affordable, and do they encourage healthful behaviors?
- Can children pursue sports and other active-leisure activities without excessive concerns about safety?
- Are there tempting-yet-healthful alternatives to staying-at-home sedentary pastimes such as watching television, playing video games, or browsing the Internet?
Eating & Physical Activity Behaviors – Rethink your drink. Look there are a lot of formal & informal diet plans. The key to most is to absorb fewer calories than your body uses. So most parents try to reduce their kids’ calorie intake by focusing on food. But we’re talking about kids! There is another way. The Rethink Your Drink plan looks to cut calories by focusing on what kids drink.
- 20-oz. bottle of non diet cola with lunch is 227 calories vs bottle of water at 0 calories
- A glass of non diet ginger ale with dinner (12 ounces) is 124 calories vs water with a slice of lemon or lime at 0 calories.
This PDF supplied by the CDC goes into great detail on this simple way to modify drinking habits. From a better understanding of some deceptive “nutrition facts” labels to being aware that many “healthy” smoothies contain added sugar— in addition to the sugar naturally in the fruit, juice or yogurt being used. It’s worth your time and your child’s health to check out.
You can sit around and blame video games or texting or too much access to snacks & junk food. Or you can actually do something to help your kids and other kids in your community. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Spread the advice of the CDC and other health agencies through your club & association newsletters, or on your personal social media platforms. Be a resource for other people.
This post was written by Anthony M Scialis. Find him here.