Children at Risk: Many Factors Lead to Obesity

Childhood obesity, and for that matter, obesity at any age, is the result of eating more calories than your body requires and getting too little physical activity.

Obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. According to the Leon County based COPE Coalition in its Executive Summary, May 2011, Call to Action, 32.5% of Florida’s children (ages 10-17) are overweight or obese; more than two of five of Florida’s children who are poor are obese (43.1%); and Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are on the rise.  Recent Children’s Campaign’s discussions with providers of services in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems suggest that these rates of overweight and obesity are even higher in the foster care and juvenile justice youth populations.

According to The Centers for Disease Control, overweight children are a cause for concern.  Extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, arthritis, certain cancers and heart disease.

Short and longer term psychological problems can become established in obese children and adolescents. Discrimination by peers and the resulting reduced self-esteem can even carry into adulthood.

Some children overeat as a coping mechanism to calm emotions stemming from household dysfunction.  Consuming high-fat, “comfort foods” can be triggered also by boredom.  Or it can be a learned behavior from parents or care givers as children often mimic adults.  Therefore, one of the most reliable strategies to decrease childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of the entire family.

Science Daily, an e-publication, makes the case that a direct relationship exists between children viewing television commercials of unhealthy foods and future obesity as a result of poor food choices.

Common factors contributing to overweight and obese children which advocates can draw attention to include:

● heavy advertising of less healthy foods
● high-sugar drinks
● reduction or elimination school physical activity
● inadequate access to healthy affordable foods
● greater availability, including in schools, of high-fat fast foods and/or sugary drinks
● very few places for children, in many communities, to be physically active

Ultimately, obesity in children leads to high health care costs and even disease shortened lives.  These are consequences that can be avoided with prevention and early intervention.
To read more about childhood obesity:

Basics About Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity: It’s Not the Amount of TV, It’s the Number of Junk Food Commercials article was brought to you by:
Janice Wade-Miller
Nutrition Educator

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