What is Pediatric Obesity?
Over the past two decades, pediatric obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. National surveys show an alarming increase in the prevalence of overweight children. Prevalence rates were almost three times higher among 2-19 year olds in 2003-2004 than they were in 1976-1980. In the state of North Carolina, nearly 50% of children between the ages of 12 and 18 years are overweight or obese.
Obesity in children is different than adults. There are no clear numbers, weights, or guidelines, as children are of all different shapes and sizes. The best way to determine if your child is overweight or obese is to calculate their body mass index (BMI) and compare that number on a growth chart. An easy way to do this is by using the BMI calculator (http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx). If you are unsure or have questions, talk to your child’s doctor.
Health consequences of being obese during childhood include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, joint problems, liver problems, disrupted sleep, and emotional problems. Carrying these health problems into adulthood is even more likely, as one study showed that without treatment, 80% of overweight children grew to become obese adults.
Contributing factors to childhood obesity are numerous and complex. There is no magic pill or easy fix that will solve this problem. Our genetics, environment, and behaviors all play a role in weight management. Research has shown that families who make efforts to be active, eat healthy, and support each other can permanently improve their health and weight.