Childhood Obesity: A National Crisis

Childhood Obesity: A National Crisis

Elizabeth Huffstutter, PhD

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Obesity in our youth continues to be a national problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past several decades. It is a leading cause of death in the United States.

There are a number of health problems associated with childhood obesity including, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, prediabetes, bone and joint problems, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, asthma and sleep disorders. Social and emotional issues, such as decreased self-esteem, bullying, behavior issues, learning issues, and depression, are also more likely.

The Mayo Clinic reports a number of factors which increase a child’s risk for developing obesity. These factors include diet, level of physical activity, socioeconomic status, and family dynamics. Current research suggests Family Based Treatments (FBT) are considered efficacious and are more cost effective than treatments with parents and children separately. Parents can adopt a number of preventive strategies to decrease risk for developing childhood obesity. Increasing physical activity and healthy eating habits are key to prevention. Diet changes should include increasing fruits and vegetables, limiting sweetened drinks, limiting fast food and decreasing portion size.

Other changes families can make include limiting television and video games and encouraging any activity. It’s especially important to choose activities the child enjoys in order to increase the likelihood of continued participation.

Caregivers should be role models when making lifestyle changes for overall health. Simply sitting together as a family for meals can be a good start. Adopting changes as a family leads to better success in achieving the overall goal of health.

So what can you do to improve your child’s health? Start by making small changes in your families daily habits. Just making a few small changes can be life altering. And remember to MOVE! Children were made to move and be active.

References:

  • Altman, M. And Wilfley, D.E. (2015). Evidence update on the treatment of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. The Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 44, 521-537.
  • American Psychological Association (2012). Monitor On Psychology, 43 (11).
  • Centers for Disease Control. www.cdc.gov
  • Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org