Childhood obesity

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Childhood obesity Heart disease. Type II diabetes. Arthritis. Asthma. Cancer. These diseases have traditionally been associated with the adult population, but they have overwhelmingly been appearing in the childhood population thanks to childhood obesity (MICA 2010). Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Body mass index is measured on a height-to-weight scale. Therefore, an individual who is 5’9 and weighs 180 pounds will have a higher BMI than an individual who is 6’0 and weights 180 pounds. BMI does not take into account lean tissue, such as in athletes, however children normally are unaffected by this flaw in calculation since they typically do not have a great amount of lean tissue.

Statistics In the past decade, obesity in children has risen dramatically. The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese (CDC). Prevalence of obese middle school children has increased 75% in the last five years, and the prevalence of obese high school students has increased by 64% during the same time period (MICA 2010). The United States has seen a huge increase in the past five decades in obesity among all of its citizens. The rate of overweight men and women has doubled from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, while the level of obesity has increased more than threefold in the same time span. In 2008, more than one third of US children and adolescents aged 6–19 were overweight or obese (CDC). When looking at the United States’ children specifically, the rates are astonishing. 9.5% of children under the age of two are obese. That rate rises to 11.9% in the 2-9 year old age group (Ogden et al 2009). The rate is even for the children of Missouri. 14% of children are considered obese in Missouri (The Obesity Epidemic and Missouri Students 2009). Clay County is where the numbers get scary. Overall, the level of obesity for children is lower in Clay County than the rate for Missouri as a whole. 10.8% of 2-5 year olds and 10.2% of 5-20 year olds have a body mass index in the obese range (Crigler 2003). The level of children who are overweight for the same age ranges are significantly higher. 17.0% of 2-5 year olds and 19.6% of 5-20 year olds are overweight (Crigler 2003). These are the highest rates for the entire Kansas City area. All of these statistics are the driving force behind the Clay60 program of the Clay County Public Health Center.

Exercise The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have proclaimed that two modifiable factors that lead to obesity are diet and exercise (2010). The CDC’s following exercise requirements for children will combat obesity and lead to a higher overall quality of life: • Children 6-17 should take part in aerobic activity for 60 or more minutes every day • Children 6-17 should take part in muscle strengthening exercises (gymnastics, push-ups, etc) three days per week as a part of the 60 or more minutes • Children 6-17 should take part in bone strengthening exercises (jumping rope, running, etc) three days per week as part of the 60 or more minutes Following these guidelines every day will help our children stay fit, and will actively combat obesity and the diseases associated with the debilitating condition. As a community, we need to support the physical education curriculum within Missouri’s school districts, and we absolutely must turn the T.V. off and force our kids to be active. Children who exercise build more lean tissue (muscle), have lower blood sugar levels, and have a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes than sedentary children. Besides the immediate health benefits associated with exercising, children who are fit enjoy a greater social experience, have more friends, and are happier overall more than obese children (CDC 2010). The slogan “Clay 60” is just a reminder that Clay County residents should make sure their children are playing and exercising for 60 minutes every single day so they can lead longer, healthier, and happier lives!

Nutrition In order to combat the change in eating habits, The United States Department of Agriculture has set forth guidelines for the recommended daily servings with the food guide pyramid as well as other tips for eating a healthy balanced diet. The general recommendations for kids are for an 1800 calorie diet with a balance of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat. It recommends 6 ounces of grains, two and half cups of vegetables, one and a half cups of fruits, 3 cups milk or dairy products and 5 ounces of meat and beans(United Stated Department of Agriculture). One ounce of grains is roughly once slice of bread or half a cup of cooked pasta. One cup of yogurt or one and a half ounces of cheese is equal to a cup of milk. One egg or one tablespoon peanut butter is equal to about an ounce of meat. In addition to these general recommendations, you can go to and determine your own specific guidelines for your height, weight, age and gender. The USDA also lists some general tips in addition to the diet recommendations already listed. When eating grains, try and make at least half of them whole grains. Fruits and vegetables need to be multiple different colors because they have different kinds of nutrients. Try to switch to low fat or fat free milk if you are currently drinking whole milk. Lastly, focus on lean meats such as poultry or lean beef and trim away excess fat before cooking.

Causes The driving factors behind these numbers are the same two things everyone keeps coming back to: diet and exercise. The children of today’s generation are much more sedentary than past generations. Multiple reasons for this have been stated, including video game usage and lack of safety for children to be playing outside. Looking at diet, there are a few driving factors. There has been a huge increase in portion size for foods as well as the amount of fat and sugar in the foods that children are eating. Also another key factor that brings together diet and exercise is caloric expenditure. Caloric expenditure occurs when a child eats more than they burn, this caloric uptake leads to the child’s weight being well above the average for their height and age. Besides diet and exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, some of the other potential causes of childhood obesity are family environment/influence and genetics. In regards to genetics, if one parent is obese, a child has a 50% chance of being obese. Furthermore, if both parents are obese, the child has an 80% chance of being obese. Another cause that may be overlooked is a child not receiving the recommended amount of sleep. Sleep is an important part of a child’s life, but not getting enough sleep can actually lead to a higher chance of being overweight (Crothers et al., 2009). Simply adding an hour of sleep can lower an 8 to 12 year old child’s chances of becoming overweight by 30% to 34% (Crothers et al., 2009).

Future Problems Childhood obesity is not only is a serious medical condition but is also becoming a serious epidemic. Childhood obesity has a significant impact on the child’s self-esteem. A study at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that obese girls ages 13 to 14 are four times more likely to experience low self-esteem than non-obese girls (Levey 1). If mental health issues weren’t bad enough, children are now dealing with health issues only once plagued by adults such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Type II diabetes is a disease in which the body becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin directs tissues in the body to absorb nutrients (especially sugar to be used and stored for energy), so resistance to insulin causes hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) which leads to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (collection of fat in arteries), and other life-threatening conditions. Type II diabetes was once considered an adult condition, but the childhood obesity epidemic has caused the instance of diabetes to increase dramatically in children and adolescents. It is no wonder that heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure occur more frequently in obese children (MICA 2010). Besides the immediate health risks, 70% of obese children grow-up to be obese adults. With 39.4% of Missouri’s children being overweight, obese, or at risk to become overweight or obese, the CDC’s exercise requirements must be enforced and must be employed in our children’s daily lives.

References Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010,May 10). How much physical activity do children need.Retrieved October 6, 2010, from

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015,August 14). Establish school environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from

Crigler, J. (2003). METROPOLITAN KANSAS CITY. Kansas City: Prime Health Foundation.

Crothers, L., Kehle, T., Bray, M., & Theodore, L. (2009). Correlates and suspected causes of obesity in children. Psychology in the Schools, 46(8), 787-796. Retrieved from

Levey, Amy. "EurekAlert." EurekAlert. (2003): 1. Print. <>.

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., Lamb, M. M., & Flegal, K. M. (2009). Prevalence of High Body Mass Index in US Children and Adolescents, 2007-2008. Journal of the American Medical Association .

Physical Activity for Everyone. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2010, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. (2010,October 10). Community data profiles.Retrieved October 6,2010, from

The Obesity Epidemic and Missouri Students. (2009). Retrieved September 30, 2010, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:Http://

United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2010, from My Pyramid ttp:// ightN=89&heightfeetN=4&heightinchN=11&validweight=0&validheight=0&