Amy Movius MD
Obesity is a national health crisis. Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. In the 1960’s, about 5% of children were obese. Currently, close to 20% of children are obese and it is projected that by 2010, 50% of all children in the US will be obese!
The implications are grave. Obese children are much more likely to be obese adults and suffer the many health problems that come with obesity such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. In fact, pediatricians are seeing these “adult” diseases more and more frequently - in obese teenagers.
In 2007, an expert committee reviewed the research available on childhood obesity and made recommendations for the prevention, assessment and treatment of childhood obesity. It is clear that some children are more prone to obesity than others. However, to quote the committee, “genes are not destiny”. It is recommended that primary health care providers assess EVERY child from birth for risk factors or signs of obesity. BMI or body mass index (weight for height) should become part of routine check-ups. Including diet and physical activity discussions into check-ups should also become routine, similar to car seat safety and vision screens.
A central concept in obesity prevention, assessment and treatment is the idea of energy balance. If you take in more energy than you use, you will gain weight. The targets for prevention/assessment/treatment logically are making good choices for the energy you consume and expend. Much of this falls into the 5-2-1-0 message for which Maine is renowned:
“5” At least 5 servings of fruits/veggies per day (good energy in)
“2” No more than 2 hours of screen time/day (poor energy out)
“1” Physical activity at least 1 hr/day (good energy out)
“0” Sugar containing drinks/day (bad energy in)
Other choices associated with maintaining a healthy weight include:
EAT BREAKFAST! (good energy in)
Eat at home (good energy in)
Eat as a family (good energy in and good for the soul)
Whether reinforcing good health habits or trying to make lifestyle changes, addressing childhood obesity must be a family effort, with interventions that work with each family’s circumstances and priorities. Ideally, addressing childhood obesity at the prevention, assessment and treatment level will become a recognized COMMUNITY effort especially including schools. For interested individuals, there is a free seminar at the Bangor High School Peaks Auditorium this Thursday, October 2 from 7:00-8:30pm featuring Dr. Kim Eagle, a guest speaker from Michigan who has been instrumental in effecting such change at the school level.
Reference: Expert Committee Recommendations Regarding the Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of Child and Adolescent Overweight and Obesity: Summary Report.