DOCTOR IS IN: Childhood obesity bigger than a weight issue

BY SEEMA CSUKAS, M.D., Ph.D

Medical Director, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Child Wellness and Medical Director, Georgia Children’s Health Alliance.

Childhood obesity is a problem throughout America, but it’s an epidemic in Georgia, where approximately 37 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.

If those numbers aren’t staggering enough, a recent report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation listed Georgia as the third-highest population of overweight and obese youths in the U.S.

Obese children are prone to suffer from a host of chronic medical conditions, including asthma, gallbladder disease, pneumonia and Type 2 diabetes. They also have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, typically found only in adults. Furthermore, overweight or obese children also have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.

Poor health outcomes impact children and their academic success. Illness and injury can take children out of school, and poorly managed chronic diseases, such as asthma and diabetes, distract children from their school work.

As obese children are more likely to be hospitalized, their parents have to miss work to care for them, reducing family income and worker productivity. Childhood obesity-related health care in the U.S. costs an estimated $14 billion a year, according to a study by researchers at Thomson Reuters.

Childhood obesity is a complicated issue with no one solution. It is, however, preventable, and there are many ways parents can encourage their children to lead healthier lifestyles. Family participation is noted to be one of the most effective ways to tackle childhood obesity.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has developed a wellness Web site to encourage families to adopt healthier lifestyles. MyFamilyHealthSpot.org features personalized meal planners, fitness and nutrition trackers, health information and activity ideas. Here, children can take an active role in their own health. Educational games, child-friendly recipes and reward points encourage kids to be active and eat more fruits and vegetables. With sections tailored to the needs of parents, teens and children, MyFamilyHealthSpot.org is a one-stop shop for family wellness.

Ultimately, healthy children with healthy habits are more likely to be healthy adults. With more than 2.5 million children living in Georgia, we have to tackle childhood obesity to ensure the health and well-being of our children.

  • (Information provided by Children’s Healthcare on this site is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your health and medical condition. If you rely on any information available through this website, you do so at your own risk. You understand that you are solely responsible for any damage or loss you may incur that results from your use of or reliance on any material or information provided by Children’s Healthcare through this website.)
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5 comments Add your comment

Steeeeeev

July 13th, 2009
12:46 pm

Inactivity is related to poor air quality… clean up this air and kids (and adults) will exercise more. When you want to calm bees down, you smoke them.. same principle hold for humans… when the air quality is poor, we have a biiological instinct to be inactive. : ) S

Keen2learn

July 14th, 2009
4:17 am

The greatest challenge is to get parents and children to recognise the issue. We all suffer from a habitual lifestyle and once the mould has been set it is a far greater problem to get out of the rut. Educational games that encourage rather than ridicule or shock could hold the answer

mystery poster

July 14th, 2009
9:09 am

I think that this is a problem with multiple causes:

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Georgia has a high obesity rate among adults, too.

Some of it comes down to over-scheduled kids. There isn’t enough time for nutritious family dinners, so parents grab Happy Meals and they eat in the car on the way to soccer practice. Occasionally, this wouldn’t be so bad but when it becomes the rule rather than the exception, the waistline grows.

There is also an incredible amount of denial on parents’ part. They fool themselves into thinking that it’s just “baby fat” or that it makes their child cute. They are not looking through objective eyes.

Business Owner

July 14th, 2009
10:36 am

Steve, you have got to be kidding me! Air quality is not what makes the kids stay inside or what makes them inactive. Growing up we went outside because we didn’t have anything to do inside. TV was limited to an hour or so a day unless it rained. Parents just need to make the kids stay active and not be couch potatoes. Instead of giving the kid an xbox give them a bike.

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