Monday, January 14, 2013

Childhood Obesity

The incidence of children who are overweight or obese is a growing concern in Western societies, especially in the United States. Childhood obesity has many potential adverse effects on the socio-emotional and physical well-being of the child; however, early intervention & prevention are proven to be the effective reactive and proactive measures to protect from issues later in life.

Obesity and being overweight are considered in a child with a greater than 20% over healthy weight based on the body mass index (BMI). If the child has a BMI over the 85th percentile they would be considered overweight, over 95th percentile, they are considered to be obese. According to the World Health Organization, in the United States, 32% of children are considered overweight and 17% obese.

Aside from health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease, social-emotional consequences may occur. Unfortunately, when polled, other adults and children alike stated they disliked their obese peer and considered them lazy and ugly. Furthermore, children who were overweight were socially isolated, and report emotional, social and school difficulties, which led to low self-esteem.There are a host of risk factors that influence obesity in children some of these include: socioeconomic status; heredity; early malnutrition; amount of time watching TV; family eating habits; and levels of physical activity.

Now, for the good news, we can prevent and intervene! The most effective interventions for both preventative and reactionary interventions target the whole family. Even if not every member of the family is obese or overweight, if everyone eats healthy and exercises, everyone benefits. You can also create an incentive system of rewards not based on actual amount of weight-lost, but on time spent exercising, healthy foods eaten, etc. It is also important to note that research shows that children were better at maintaining their weight loss better than their parents in these systems, which is why early intervention is so important. Furthermore, restricting TV & computer access, removing TVs from children’s rooms, and reducing sedentary time in general can have a positive effect on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

There have been pushes at the national level. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program and the NFL’s Play 60 are two resources to get us all up and doing to promote healthy lifestyles.

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