Childhood Obesity Awareness Should Focus on Prevention

October 4 work day

One year ago, during Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, the most recent Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit was attended by nearly 300 state and local policy makers, and even some representatives of federal agencies. Other advocates of childhood obesity prevention included members of community organizations, as well as academics and professionals. The public relations material described the summit agenda:

Workshops addressed, among other topics, food marketing to children, food access in underserved communities, community development and design strategies, school-based policies and socioeconomic disparities in policy implementation.

While visiting Baltimore, summit attendees were invited to visit Druid Hill Park, known for its hiking and bicycling facilities. They could also tour the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School for Health Professions. Another site of interest was the Great Kids Farm, a project of the city’s public schools. Activities there are very similar to what goes on in other schools fortunate enough to be involved in garden-based learning.

In that same month, Zoe Mintz wrote for International Business Times about a newly identified class of risk. This condition has been defined as severe obesity, and 5% of American children are said to exist within it. But what does it mean exactly?

In children over the age of 2, severe obesity is defined by a body mass index (BMI) that’s at least 20 percent higher than the 95th percentile for their gender and age, or a BMI score of 35 or higher.

These children are looking at a future that includes one or more of the following: “Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, sleep apnea, musculoskeletal problems and early signs of clogged arteries.” What is worse, the treatment options are few. Modalities that are effective among other obese populations don’t seem to work for severe obesity, which is characterized as “an extremely difficult disease to treat.” Mintz includes an interesting quotation from Dr. Valentin Fuster of New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center:

Somehow you think you’ve got it, but they come back…. This is why it’s so important to know the reasons for why you’re obese.

As for the reasons, followers of Childhood Obesity News have heard this before: Many people are obese because they are addicted to high-calorie, low-nutrition, chemical-laden concoctions that are shameful imitations of food. Yes, even people who know better! The world is full of intelligent adults, some with multiple academic degrees, whose bones are asked to support far too many pounds.

These are adults with life experience, credentials, disposable income, the ability to travel, and many other advantages. If they can’t figure out how to shed their addiction, what chance does a little kid have? Especially the ones who arrive in the “severely obese” category before any responsible adult thinks to pay attention. Since severe obesity is so intractable once it sets in, prevention is clearly of paramount importance.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “2013 Childhood Obesity Prevention Summit,” LeadershipForHealthyCommunities.org, undated
Source: “5 Percent Of US Children Are ‘Severely Obese,’ New Risk Category Rising Among Youth,” ibtimes.com, 09/10/13
Image by Friends of West Baltimore Squares

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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