Research on Childhood Obesity Highlights Need for Prevention

New research released in the most recent issue of the medical journal, “Pediatrics,” suggests that minorities may be disproportionately likely to become obese.

Researchers considered more than a dozen risk factors that can lead to obesity, such as smoking during pregnancy, improper nutrition, bad sleeping habits, and increased access to television, and found that, in nearly all cases, they were more common in Black and Hispanic children than in White children.

Obesity, particularly among children, is quickly becoming an epidemic in the U.S.  One in three children are overweight, which puts them at greater risk for cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and stroke, as well as diabetes later in life.  In addition, statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 29 percent of Black teenagers and 17.5 percent of Hispanic teenagers are obese, compared with 14 percent of White teenagers. 

In a recent Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing, the surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin, laid out the Obama administration’s ambitious plan for ending the twin problems of adult and childhood obesity.

“As ‘America’s family doctor,’ I want to change the national conversation from a negative one about obesity and illness to a positive conversation about being healthy and fit.  Instead of bombarding people with lists of what not to do, we need to empower them with what to do to promote health,” Benjamin said.

Dr. Benjamin highlighted President Obama’s recent executive order creating the first ever task force on child obesity. The order also requires a thorough evaluation of all federal nutrition programs over a 90-day period, with the results to be used to develop a national plan of action. The administration has also created a new prevention and wellness program, “Communities Putting Prevention to Work,” that provides funds to enable national, state, and local organizations to create programs to prevent obesity and smoking in communities around the country.

In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama’s new campaign to bring attention to the problem of childhood obesity, “Let’s Move,” will call on government to take action to promote four main goals: access to quality food, informing families about nutrition and exercise, emphasis on physical education, and improved quality of food in schools.

“To make and sustain progress in the fight against obesity, mothers, fathers, teachers, businesses, government and community leaders all must commit to changes to promote the health and wellness of our families and communities,” Dr. Benjamin said