How Is Childhood Obesity Doing? (Part 5)

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Still celebrating Childhood Obesity Awareness month by taking an overview of the mixed messages dispersed since last September, we note the arrival of a new thing on the scene. An organization started by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) got up and running around the first of this year. The AAP newsletter says:

The new Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight will translate policy, research and best practices into action within health care settings, communities and families… Innovation will be considered by exploring new technologies, partnerships and models.

Unfortunately, the founding sponsor is Nestle, the company that seemingly wants to take control of the world’s potable water supply, since its leader declared that having water is neither a public right nor a human right.

Although there was some good news on the childhood obesity front, or news that was spun to sound good, not everyone is in agreement. The School of Public Health at Columbia University released a study showing that obesity could be responsible for as many as 18% of deaths in America, of people between 40 and 85, whether black or white. Writer Sy Mukherjee says:

If the new findings are accurate, the disease may actually kill triple the number of people estimated by previous studies.

This is not good news, by any stretch of the imagination. If the situation is so bad now, how will it look when today’s current crop of overweight and obese children reach adulthood? The results of this study have been questioned, on the grounds that the methodology it used might not be appropriate. Apparently, other factors like smoking and alcohol consumption and the possession (or not) of health insurance should have also been taken into account.

Now comes the interesting part:

Part of the problem is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which tracks these trends for the U.S. government, doesn’t use ‘obesity’ as an official disease that can be attributable as a cause of death. The CDC only considers the diseases caused by obesity, like heart attacks and strokes.

So in any discussion of these matters, there appears to be plenty of room for equivocation. Last month, the CDC announced small declines in the childhood obesity rates among low-income preschoolers in 18 states, and Director Thomas Frieden said that this 1% difference was the first significant decrease at the national level.

Georgia, whose public education techniques have been severely criticized, is one of the states that registered an improvement in this demographic. But in explaining it, an official did not mention the embattled advertising campaign that brought world-wide attention to Georgia. Instead, credit was given to the hiring of a dietician, along with stepped-up nutritional education and physical activity in schools.

How those measures would have affected the low-income pre-schoolers is not explained, so some mystery remains. In this small matter, as in the big picture, attempting to draw any firm conclusions is confusing, to say the least.

But on the bright side, for comic relief, it’s so reassuring to know that the American Beverage Association has reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to being a part of the solution to childhood obesity. They take credit for stocking school vending machines with smaller cans of slightly less sugary drinks. How does the saying go? That’s right — “Big whoop.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “AAP Prevention Efforts Going High-Tech,”, March 2013
Source: “Is Obesity Killing Even More Americans Than We Thought?,”, 08/16/13
Source: “First win against childhood obesity,” StatesmanJournal,com, 08/29/13
Source: “Statewide childhood obesity rates decline roughly 1%,”, 09/02/13
Source: “September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,”, 09/03/13
Image by Permiegardener.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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