It’s Time to Get Our Children’s Health Under Control

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It’s Time to Get Our Children’s Health Under ControlThe state of our children’s health today in the U.S. is not where it ought to be. Many times I have written about the state of adult health in the U.S. but now I would like to focus my attention on a bigger problem.

According to a new report, new students entering kindergarten in schools across the U.S. who were classified as being overweight were four times more likely to become obese by the age of 14 contrasted to students who had a normal weight. The report also indicated that the annual incidence of obesity in these overweight kindergarten children was at almost 20% compared with just 2.4% in the normal weight students!

This study looked at the data of 7,738 children who entered kindergarten in 1998 with a follow-up of 9 years. The study was designed to estimate the annual incidence of obesity during the follow-up period as it related to body weight, economic status, gender, and race. The researchers found that approximately 12% of children starting kindergarten were classified as obese at an average age of five and a half years old! They also found that approximately 15% were classified as being overweight.

By the time these kids reached grade eight, the picture was very different. At the tender age of 14, approximately 2% were considered obese and 17% were overweight!

What the researchers also discovered was that the changes in weight found in the grade eight students were attributed to the effects of their weight when they were in early elementary school.

In overall terms, the study indicated that between the ages of five and 14, approximately 12% of the students became obese.

“Those kids who came to kindergarten already overweight had about four times greater risk of becoming obese during the subsequent years,” said the study author. “That tells us that some component of the risk of obesity may be set in motion by the age of five already. Kids who were born large and overweight at entry to kindergarten were at the highest risk of obesity.”

This information needs to be a serious call to action regarding how we look at this problem. In my opinion, there is no room for placing blame upon the children. Let’s face it: can these children be made responsible for their own health? Isn’t that up to the adults around them?

Given the evidence that childhood overweight and obesity often lead to the same state in adulthood, we should all be very concerned regarding this trend. Do we want the next generation growing up sicker and in more need of medical treatment than what was required of our generation? What will become of their children? Is this the beginning of a downward spiral of chronic disease which we have passed on to our children?

I would agree with the researchers’ recommendations that extensive programs designed to improve education, awareness, nutrition, physical education, recreational pursuits and extensive funding are needed to turn this around.

The future depends upon it!

Hand, L., “Overweight in Kindergarten, Obese by Eighth Grade?” Medscape web site;
Cunningham, S., et al.,  “Incidence of Childhood Obesity in the United States,” N Engl J Med 2014; 370: 403-411.