Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Despite recent declines in the prevalence among preschool-age children, obesity among children is still high. For children and adolescents ages 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity remains fairly stable at about 17% and affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents for the past decade.
In 2011-2012, 8.4% of 2-5 year olds had obesity compared with 17.7% of 6-11 year olds and 20.5 % of 12-19 year olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain racial and ethnic groups.
In 2011-2012, the prevalence among children and adolescents was higher among Hispanics (22.4% and non-Hispanic blacks (20.2% ) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.1 % ). The prevalence of obesity was lower in non-Hispanic Asian youth (8.6% ) than in youth who were non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic.
In children and indolence’s ages 2-19 years, obesity was defined as body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI for age growth charts.
Childhood obesity is associated with the adult head of household’s education level for some children. Children who have obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems, including diabetes and increase of certain cancers.
Children who are obese face more bullying and stigma. Childhood obesity is influenced by many factors. For some children and families, factors include too much time spent in sedentary activities such as watching television; lack of a bedtime routine leading to too little sleep; a lack of community places to get adequate physical activity: easy access to inexpensive, high calorie snacks and beverages and/or lack of access to affordable, healthier foods.
To help ensure that children have a healthy weight, energy balance is important. To achieve this balance, parents can make sure children get adequate sleep, follow recommendations on daily screen time, take part in regular physical activity, and eat the right amount of calories. Parents can substitute higher nutrient, lower calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Addressing obesity can start in the home, but also requires the support of communities. We can as adults take part in the effort to encourage more children to be physically active and eat a healthy diet.
The federal government is currently helping low- income families get affordable, nutritious foods through programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Child and Adult Feeding Program (CACFP).
State and local stakeholders including health departments, business, and community groups can make it easier for families with children to find low-cost physical activities for students
With more than 60% of US children younger than 6 participating in some form of child care on a weekly basis, parents can engage with their child care providers to support healthy habits at home and in the child care setting.
Working together, all states, communities, schools, childcare providers, and parents can help make healthier food, beverages and physical health the easy choice for children and adolescents to help prevent childhood obesity.
For more information on childhood obesity contact Lethia Lee with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-592-7161.
Leitha Lee is the EFNEP program assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center. She can be reached by calling the Extension Office at 910-592-7161.