Obesity in America trends over the last two decades suggest that the incidence of obesity in children has doubled and obesity in adolescents has tripled! In fact, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 31.9% of adolescents and children rank as overweight and 16.3% are obese.
How is obesity measured? In children over two years old, Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to assess child obesity. This calculation uses a child’s height and weight to determine a reliable indicator of body fat.
Referred to as BMI-for-age, this measurement is then plotted on a BMI-for-age growth chart. This allows for a percentile ranking. Children and adolescents are considered overweight with a BMI that ranges more than the 85% percentile but less than the 95th percentile. They’re considered obese if their BMI plots greater than the 95th percentile.
Cause of Obesity
Child obesity can be the result of genetic and hormonal disorders. But these diseases, like Prader-Willi and Cushing syndrome affect a small amount of children.
Most childhood obesity, like obesity in adults, is a result of eating too much and exercising too little. If children add the necessary nutrients and calories needed for their growth, that’s fine. However if they eat more calories than they need, they’ll gain weight over and above what’s needed to support their growth.
Ethnic and Gender Differences in Pediatric Obesity
As suggested before, child obesity is a significant problem in America. However, the data from NHANES indicates ethnic and gender disparities:
- Mexican American girls and Non-Hispanic black girls are more likely to have
a high BMI than non-Hispanic white girls
- BMI for Mexican American boys are likely to be higher than Non-Hispanic
Obesity Pediatric Problems
Overweight and obese children become at risk for many health problems. These can be immediate concerns and/or turn into long term, serious health issues. Some of the problems include asthma, sleep apnea, joint pain, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
In addition to the physical health concerns, obese children often have lower self esteem and lack the self confidence of their more normal size peers. This has been linked to poor school performance, depression and even having fewer friends.
That’s why it’s important to get the child on a pediatric obesity program treatment program as soon as possible. A wide variety of obesity help is available to assist in doing so.
A comprehensive pediatric obesity intervention including a treatment program needs to be put into place to help the obese child gain control of their weight.
A program will include diet and an exercise program that’s closely monitored until the weight is in proportion to height.