Childhood obesity is a major health problem.
Currently, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6-19) has obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that since the 1970s the percentage of obese children in the United States has more than tripled. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat.” Many factors contribute to childhood obesity, including:
- Metabolism – how your body changes food and oxygen into energy it can use
- Eating and physical activity behaviors
- Environmental factors
- Social and individual psychology
Like adults, some children will eat when they are feeling bored, stressed, angry, insecure, lonely and even when they are happy.
Members of the health care community are concerned with the rise of obesity in children and youth because obesity can lead to a myriad of health problems such as:
- Heart disease due to high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sleep apnea
- Social discrimination
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. National and state initiatives are bringing awareness to the urgency of combating childhood obesity through various programs.
On the national level there are programs such as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s EatPlayGrow which targets children ages two to five and the We Can! initiative which targets children ages eight to 13 years old.
In California, the California Health & Human Services Agency, created a task force in 2012 titled Let’s Get Healthy California with the purpose of developing a 10-year plan to make California the healthiest state in the nation.
One of the plan’s goals is to increase children’s health and well-being from infancy through the teenage years. Let’s Get Healthy California’s Healthy Beginnings is a helpful resource with stories and solutions to promote health equity.
Ideally, teaching children good habits that promote a healthy and active lifestyle and a positive relationship with food should begin at home. Secondary sources such as schools, the media and online sources and healthcare providers can provide direction as well.
If you have additional questions about childhood obesity, check with a licensed healthcare professional.