Fighting obesity

North Carolina has a lot of work to do to help youngsters stay trim.

By Kim Shovelin

Life as an overweight kid isn’t easy.

Whether chubby or truly obese, children often become the targets of undeserved aggression, malicious taunting, or social excommunication.

Wherever children congregate, the heavy are immediately identified and targeted.

Historically, the damage had been contained to only a few individuals per grade, but this trend is reversing. Children are getting heavier at an increasing rate.

A state report, Moving Our Children Toward a Healthy Weight, notes there was a doubling of overweight among children in the U.S. in the last two decades and a tripling among adolescents.

In North Carolina, the increase between 1995 and 2000 was even more alarming, including a 40 percent increase in the last decade among those ages 5 to 11.

Currently, the overweight include 26 percent of North Carolinians ages 12 to 18 are overweight, 20.6 percent of those ages 5 to 11, and 12 percent of children ages 2 to 4.

Children and adults in North Carolina are overweight and obese at significantly higher rates than are their counterparts throughout the U.S.

Children and youth seen in North Carolina’s public-health settings are almost twice as likely to be overweight as the national average.

North Carolina trails only 11 states in its prevalence of adult obesity.

Unfortunately, the issues related to obesity extend beyond social cruelty. Children who are overweight are at increased risk for pediatric hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Sixty-seven percent of overweight children ages 5 to 10 have at least one risk fact for cardiovascular.

The good news is that the issue is being addressed in North Carolina through several programs and initiatives.

Many restaurants, including McDonalds, Golden Corral and Subway, as well as multiple school districts, have adopted healthy eating plans.

Numerous institutions, for example, have adopted the Winner’s Circle healthy dining program to provide guidance for children and parents when making meal choices.

Other restaurants have adopted low-fat or low-carbohydrate offerings to address specific consumer diets.

However, the need is still great and the impending impact on medical expenditures will be enormous as overweight children grow into sick adults.

Kim Shovelin is national Winner’s Circle manager for NC Prevention Partners.

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