By: Nikki Bolduc, Dietetic Intern Date: 1/23/13
With the news that the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents for the first time in two centuries, childhood obesity has moved into the forefront of American health efforts. However, a new study reporting slightly improving childhood obesity rates may indicate a positive trend and give us a small but meaningful success on which to build this year.
Data from a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report shows that the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity increased from 1998 (13.05% and 1.75%, respectively) to 2003 (15.21% and 2.22%, respectively); however, the prevalence of obesity and extreme obesity decreased slightly in 2010 (14.94% and 2.07%, respectively). Obesity was defined by a BMI = 95th percentile for age and sex and extreme obesity was defined by a BMI = 120% of the 95th percentile, according to the 2000 CDC growth charts.
In addition to the CDC study, other reports have shown city- and state-wide improvements in obesity rates among schoolchildren in various grades:
· Mississippi: 13.3% decrease in grades K-5 (2005-2011)
· New York City: 5.5% decline in grades K-8 (2007-2011)
· Philadelphia: 4.7% reduction in grades K-12 (2007-2010)
· California: 1.1% drop in grades 5, 7 and 9 (2005-2010)
Such data has important health implications – childhood obesity is associated with obesity during adulthood, which increases one’s risk for the development of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and many types of cancer. If we can keep this trend moving in the right direction, our youngest generation will have a greater chance of growing up free from the complications of chronic disease.
While there are no clear explanations for the decline in childhood obesity rates seen in the United States, contributors suggest increased awareness of childhood obesity among parents may be a factor. Others have credited higher breastfeeding rates among low income women, day care initiatives, federal nutrition programs, routine clinic visits and school initiatives for healthier food and beverage options. I think efforts such as these, as well as many other state and federal initiatives, can be credited for a combined achievement committed to protecting our children.
We can be hopeful that these results will continue to trend downward, debunking the scary reality that today’s children will have shorter life expectancies. Health initiatives play an important role in the United States and I hope to see more children on the path to healthier lifestyles due to such efforts. As a Dietetic Intern, I am looking forward to being part of a movement in which health is a top priority for our children!