Childhood obesity is an epidemic that is impacting the health and wellness of millions of children. To bring attention to this critical situation, September was deemed National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a month to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity in America. Although September has come and gone we must continue to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity and how to stop it.
The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. In fact, one in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese putting children at a higher risk for chronic diseases once only seen in adults, like diabetes. There are increasing incidences of diabetes among obese youth which can lead to eye disease and vision loss. In addition to diabetes, children with obesity are at higher risk for other health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, and bone/joint problems.
Health professionals use growth charts to see whether a child’s weight falls into a healthy range for the child’s height, age, and sex. Children with a BMI (Body Mass Index) above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile are considered overweight. BMI percentile is preferred for measuring children and young adults (ages 2–20), rather than weight, because it takes into account that they are still growing, and growing at different rates depending on their age and sex.
Bullying and Teasing
Besides the physical health risks, it has been found that children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal-weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and low self-esteem. The effects of bullying can result in poor performance in school, mental health issues, and addictions. These effects can have lifelong impact on the child’s self image and future prospects.
Childhood Obesity is Preventable
The most important thing to know about child obesity is that it can be prevented. It is important to tackle the issue as soon as possible, under a doctor’s guidance, and without drawing unnecessary and prolonged attention to the child’s physical appearance. In the long term, childhood obesity is associated with having obesity as an adult, which is linked to serious conditions and diseases.
Encourage the families you know to be aware of the risks related to childhood obesity and take their child’s weight and fitness seriously. Advise them to make small changes, like keeping fresh fruit, instead of high caloric snacks, within reach for after school snacks. Commit as a family to physical activity, like going on a family walk after dinner instead of watching a favorite television show. Make physical fitness and healthy eating a natural part of your lifestyle. If you are a grandparent, forego giving traditional “grandparent” like fresh-baked cookies, cake, and chocolate on a regular basis. Instead, keep these items as infrequent treats and keep your own home stocked with healthy food choices for their visits. Ensuring our children have healthy habits helps motivates us to make better life choices as well!