Childhood Obesity: A Growing Epidemic

  • Published
  • By Brian K. Todd
  • 97th Medical Group
I am sure that by now you have heard all of the latest about the USA's growing obesity trend reported this past summer by the CDC. It is disturbing to say the least, but what is especially unsettling is the number of children identified as being obese. 

The annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about one-third of U.S. children are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. In total, about 25 million U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or nearly overweight. That's staggering! 

Many factors, usually working in combination, increase your child's risk of becoming overweight such as: regular consumption of high-calorie food, inactivity, genetics, or emotional factors. 

Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Overweight children are also at increased risk of low self-esteem because of the social emphasis on appearance and being slim. Parents play a crucial role in helping children who are obese feel loved and in control of their weight. 

Keep in mind that children need extra nutrients and calories to fuel their growth and development. However, children who eat more calories than they need gain weight beyond what's needed to support their growing bodies. In these cases, the added weight increases their risk of obesity and weight-related health problems. 

You may be asking yourself, "How do you know if your child's weight gain is normal and when it may be leading to childhood obesity?" If you're worried that your child is putting on too much weight, talk to his or her doctor or health care provider. He or she can provide a complete weight assessment. 

If you believe your child is at risk of becoming overweight, you can take proactive measures to get things on the right track. One of the best strategies to combat excess weight in your children is to improve the diet and exercise levels of your entire family. 

Commit to new healthy habits and behaviors. Children usually can't change their exercise and eating habits by themselves. Success depends largely on your commitment to helping your child make these changes. They need the support and encouragement of their family and other caregivers. 

Start setting a good example by making sure your own diet is consistent with maintaining healthy weight. Become active and invite your child to join you. 

The 97 Medical Group Pediatrics Clinic is currently coordinating a Fit N' Healthy program for children who are at risk of being overweight. The program focuses on the importance of nutrition and fitness as a way to a healthier lifestyle. Each child will receive an initial exam and monthly follow up by pediatricians to assess and identify areas of concern. The pediatrician, patient and family will together make a realistic plan and set attainable goals. The clinic registered nurses will follow up the plan, goals and progress of each patient individually and do further health and nutritional counseling with families. There will also be exercise and physical activity resources provided by clinic technicians. 

To schedule an appointment, call the clinic at (580) 482-5235.