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Childhood Obesity: The New Plague in America

With one in three kids overweight, obesity has become the top health concern in the USA. How has obesity “plagued” the nation, and what can we do about it?

Did you know that nearly one in three American children is overweight? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the childhood obesity rate has almost been tripled in the past three decades. Overweight children are prone to immediate and long-term health effects, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, dangerous blood cholesterol levels, and even death in adulthood. Moreover, overweight children often suffer from low self-esteem, negative body image, and depression.

For those reasons, childhood obesity is the prime health concern in the USA today, even bigger than smoking and drug abuse. The drastic effects of childhood obesity echo clearly in the words of former Surgeon General Richard Carmona:

“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

Childhood Obesity According to Ethnicity

Heart.org has released percentages of childhood obesity by ethnicity for children between the ages of 2 and 19:

  • For non-Hispanic whites, 17.5 percent of males and 14.7 percent of females.
  • For non-Hispanic blacks, 22.6 percent of males and 24.8 percent of females.
  • For Mexican-Americans, 28.9 percent of males and 18.6 percent of females. 

(Source: Heart.org) 

How Do I Know if my Child Is Overweight?

Body Mass Index, or BMI, is widely used to determine a person’s body fat by correlating weight and height measurements. Rather than calculating the ratio yourself, use the BMI calculator for accurate readings.

Once you find your child’s BMI rating, it can be plotted on a standard BMI chart, which is given below for kids aged 2-19.

Underweight: BMI below the 5th percentile

Normal Weight: BMI at the 5th and less than the 85th percentiles

Overweight: BMI at the 85th and below the 95th percentiles

Obese: BMI at or above the 95th percentile

However, BMI calculations are not meant to determine body fat in infants or young toddlers. A physician can use special “weight for length” charts to estimate body fat in babies or infants.

In some cases, BMI can be misleading, for example . . .

  • Muscular children may have high BMIs, without being overweight, because much of the weight comes from extra muscle rather than fat.
  • Children experience rapid growth during puberty.

If your child seems overweight, consult your doctor, who can suggest changes in lifestyle and diet, based on a medical screening of your child.

Causes of Being Overweight

From genetics to medications, lifestyles and eating habits, many factors contribute to becoming obese. Children prefer snacks and fast foods over healthy and homemade food. Tight schedules and busy lives make it difficult to find time to prepare healthy meals or to exercise. Therefore, even kids with good BMIs can develop the tendency to become overweight.

What is the Role of the Parent in Tackling Childhood Obesity?

parent’s support and effort are essential to keep childhood obesity at bay. As a responsible parent, you must encourage your children to eat healthy food and engage in physical activities in the following ways:

  • Improve your kids’ eating habits by adding healthy, real foods to their daily diet.
  • Limit their consumption of fast foods and snacks.
  • Motivate them to engage in physical activities, workouts, and sports.
  • Explain to them the benefits of health in one’s life, such as increased energy, better focus, etc.

In addition to parents, schools play an important role by creating a safe and supportive environment to encourage healthy eating and physical activities. 

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