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Diane Miller

Factoids from childhood obesity report

    The Society for Research in Child Development has released a report called “The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity: Review of Research and Implications for Public Policy.” The goal of this report is to translate the research that has been done on childhood obesity so that policy makers and the concerned public can begin to do something about this health emergency.
    The entire report is available on-line at www.srcd.org/apr.html, but here are some highlights from the report that you might find interesting:
    According to the Institutes of Medicine, over the last 30 years the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled for children age 2-5 years and for adolescents age 12-19 years. What is most disturbing is that the rate has tripled for children age 6-11 years. They also estimate that 9 million children and youth over the age of 6 are obese.
    In 2001 in the United States, the hospital costs for pediatric obesity and its associated disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and gall bladder disease were estimated to be $127 million.
    Children who watch the most T.V. are most likely to be overweight or obese. The average child is exposed to 40,000 commercials per year and 80 percent of those ads are for fast foods, cereals, candies and toys. Sadly the Federal Trade Commission has less power to regulate advertising for children than they do for adults. This is not true in other countries like Austria and Australia where ads targeting children are controlled.
    Our society promotes inactivity by how our communities are designed. While 25 percent of our trips from home are less than one mile away, 75 percent of those trips are made in a motorized vehicle. Fortunately “walkable communities, when they are built with sidewalks and bike lanes, encourage residents to engage in daily activity.
    Only 6 percent of kindergarten programs meet the recommendations of the CDC for daily physical activity. Schools with low income and minority populations are even less likely to meet these standards.
    When the P.E. classes of older children are observed, the children are only moderately to vigorously active for 3 minutes out of a total 30 minute period.
    A study in the year 2000, found only 8 percent of elementary schools, 6.4 percent of middle schools and 5.8 percent of high schools provided daily P.E. year round.
    Competitive foods sold in schools do impact how many fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods are consumed by students. Many times schools are reluctant to remove these items because they make money for the school, but one study found that replacing less nutritious a la carte items with healthier choices did not reduce income for the food service.
    Sadly, school-based interventions to reduce incidence of overweight have had limited results. In most cases, while the intake of healthy foods increases and physical activity measures improve, the children’s body mass indices do not go down. It appears that interventions that include the entire community including restaurants and parents in the effort are more effective.
    Between 1972 and 1995, the number of families eating outside the home increased 89 percent. Unfortunately those who eat out consume about 200 more calories per day.
    As you can see this report has a lot to consider. There are no easy answers to the problem and it will take cooperation from civic leaders, educators, health care providers, researchers, parents and the media to do something about this growing epidemic.

    For more information on nutrition and feeding your family, contact Diane at 912 871-0504, dianem@uga.edu, or www.ugaextension.com/bulloch/fcs.

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