Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

Understanding and Addressing Childhood Obesity

Understanding and Addressing Childhood Obesity

(Reposted from 2017)
Childhood obesity is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6–19) is obese.

Why Does Childhood Obesity Matter?

As you know, excess weight can cause many health problems, especially in children, who can suffer from asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease, hypertension, early puberty, and orthopedic problems.
Children who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer bullying, which can lead to social isolation, depression, and a lower self-esteem, along with eating disorders and behavior and learning problems. Finally, children who are obese are apt to remain so into adulthood, which further risks their health, leading to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Defining Childhood Obesity

Children grow at different rates and in different ways, so a child who looks larger than his peers may not be overweight or obese.
You probably have heard of Body Mass Index or BMI. To calculate BMI, divide weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. A child is considered overweight if his/her BMI is at or above the 85th percentile, but below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. A child is obese if his/her BMI is at or above the 95th percentile. (This is different than how we categorize overweight and obesity in adults, who are no longer growing.)
There have been some changes in obesity rates due to more awareness of the issue. Despite those declines in the early 2000s, from 2011-2014, the prevalence of obesity remained about the same. About 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese — which is 12.7 million people.

Risk Factors

Poor diet and lack of exercise can cause childhood obesity. Genetics can also play a role. Some children overeat for psychological reasons, to cope with emotions or to fight boredom. Sleep also plays a role; children who lack a bedtime routine and do not get enough sleep are often heavier than their peers.
Socioeconomic status may lead to childhood obesity in households where less-healthy food is cheaper, quicker to prepare, and won’t spoil easily. According to statistics, children in low-income households are far more likely to be overweight or obese.

Complications of Childhood Obesity

Prevention and Cures

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Managing childhood obesity starts at home but extends to the community. One of the best approaches is to improve the eating and exercise habits of your entire family. Parents can encourage their children to eat healthy and get physical activity in many ways:

As a community, we can work to reduce the rate of childhood obesity. Here are some of the ways communities are addressing the problem:

If you have concerns about your child’s weight, contact our pediatric providers to discuss your child’s weight and whether it’s cause for concern.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Lifestyle Tips For Managing Your Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can have life-threatening complications. The good news is that there are numerous lifestyle changes you can make to manage and mitigate the effects of diabetes. Read on to learn more.

Chronic Conditions We Can Help You Manage

Taking care of yourself when you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, can be challenging. That’s where chronic care management comes in. Read on to learn how you can get the help you need to live well.

A Closer Look at Transitional Care Management

Making the transition from a hospital, nursing home, or inpatient center to home can be challenging. An integrated care model called transitional care management can help make the process go smoothly. Read on to learn more.

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Annual Physical Exam

​​Annual physical exams provide an opportunity for you and your health care provider to track and evaluate your overall health regardless of whether you’re healthy or sick. The appointment includes a physical exam and screenings. Read on.

Recognizing the Earliest Warning Signs of Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can affect nearly every system in the body. Managing diabetes is crucial to living well, and knowing the warning signs is key to getting prompt treatment. Read on to learn more.