I came across an article on educationnews.org. This article, published last Friday by Grace Smith, focuses on the increasing problem of childhood obesity. While the author discusses this rising problem in the UK, the US, and perhaps other countries face the same problem.
The article entitled, Parents “Weight Blind”, Unaware of Children’s Health Problems, shares many good points about this growing epidemic and how parents should take more notice of their child(ren)’s weight as they grow and develop.
According to the article,
The British Journal of General Practice published the findings which included that 31% of parents underestimated their children’s body mass index (BMI). Brian Wu, writing for The Science Times, reports only 1% of parents included in the study classified their children as obese, and fewer than 1% overestimated their children’s body mass index. For children who were in the 95th percentile, there was an 80% chance that parents recognized that their child was obese.
Researchers suggest that if parents are unable to identify that their child is overweight, perhaps public health campaigns designed to address childhood obesity are not as effective as sponsors would have hoped.
How does that compare to the US?
In the United States, the Harvard School of Public Health says this:
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world: one out of six children is obese, and one out of three children is overweight or obese. Though the overall U.S. child obesity rate has held steady since 2008, some groups have continued to see increases, and some groups have higher rates of obesity than others:
- In the 1970s, 5 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 were obese, according to the CDC’s current definition; by 2008, nearly 17 percent of children were obese, a percentage that held steady through 2010.
- Obesity is more common in boys than girls (19 percent versus 15 percent).
- Obesity rates in boys increased significantly between 1999 and 2010, especially among non-Hispanic black boys; but obesity rates in girls of all ages and ethnic groups have stayed largely the same.
- Hispanic (21 percent) and non-Hispanic black (24 percent) youth have higher rates of obesity than non-Hispanic white youth (14 percent), a continuing trend.
- Nearly 10 percent of U.S. infants had a high “weight for recumbent length”—a measure that’s similar to the body mass index but used in children from birth to age 2.
- From 1999 to 2010, Mexican American infants were 67 percent more likely to have a high weight for recumbent length than non-Hispanic white infants.
They also say this,
Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool children (under age 5) were overweight or obese in 2010, a 60 percent increase since 1990. The problem affects countries rich and poor, and by sheer numbers, places the greatest burden on the poorest: Of the world’s 43 million overweight and obese preschoolers, 35 million live in developing countries. By 2020, if the current epidemic continues unabated, 9 percent of all preschoolers will be overweight or obese—nearly 60 million children.
How can we help end this crisis?
It starts in schools.
Parents, teachers, and school administrators should take careful notice of what children eat, and how much they eat. Portion sizes are important for monitoring caloric intake. Meals should also be balanced between all the food groups. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests that health and nutritional information should be woven into the curriculum. Helping students make connections between what they eat and how it affects their bodies is a great place to start!
Helping students learn to maintain healthy lifestyles will greatly benefit them later on, and can be encouraged at home by parents, too! Children need to become more active than they are now (thanks to standardized testing!). Serving healthy choices in the lunch room, limiting availability and marketing of unhealthful foods and sugary drinks, and making water available to students throughout the day are some of the ways that schools can help prevent obesity.
It starts at home, too.
Parents should encourage their children to eat more vegetables and fruits at home, as well as be active. I think the best way for children to learn to be active and healthy, is to see their parents be active and healthy. If Mom and Dad play sports, go for a walk, and eat right, Bobby and Jane will follow suit (hopefully with encouragement from Mom and Dad).
Let’s do our best as teachers, parents, and school administrators to help end childhood obesity!