Forty percent of obese children will become obese adults, and with obesity comes hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression, among other concerns,” says Dr. Kingsford. “The CDC’s numbers hold true here in Tulare County and, in some cases, our numbers are even worse.”
Overweight and obesity are also associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, asthma, early onset of puberty, social and psychological problems, learning problems and poor self-esteem.
The causesThe causes range from the complex – such as genetics – to the very simple: a sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices.
“High-calorie snacks, sugary drinks and not enough exercise are the primary causes,” Dr. Kingsford said. “Parents are working, children are home by themselves during the day and they make poor food choices, while watching too much TV and playing video games. In urban areas, the problem is that children have no safe place to play, so they’re inside, playing video games.
Findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that young people today devote seven hours and 38 minutes a day to media use, thanks to round-the-clock access and mobile devices. Yet studies have found that children that spend more than five hours a day watching television have three times the risk of diabetes as kids who are active.
The answer is simple, but experts agree that changing behavior is no simple task.
VMC’s pediatricians are working with parents to educate them about diet choices and exercise. They are also more aggressively assessing health risks, Dr. Kingsford explained, including testing for diabetes risk, assessing vitamin D and lipid (cholesterol) levels and other lab work in order to identify health concerns early.
“Childhood obesity is truly a social challenge as well as a health challenge,” Dr. Kingsford added. “Families are becoming more aware of this serious health concern and we are seeing people trying to get more exercise. School lunches are becoming healthier and schools are working toward more hours of physical exercise.
“As a society we are making progress in education, but we have a long way to go.”
Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0
An effort by the Harvard School of Public Health to improve children’s diet and encourage more physical activity.
5 - or more fruits and vegetables
2 – hours or less recreational ‘screen time’ (video games or TV)
1 – hour or more physical activity
0 – sugary drinks
Tips to keep your child healthy