Childhood obesity risk is determined earlier and certain factors are being examined in a New England study. In the study produced in the New England Journal of Medicine researcher and Emory University scientist, Solevig Cunningham, says she and her peers believe that there exists a need to continue use what is known about early factors aggressively to prevent childhood obesity from continuing to rise. She and her colleagues are finding that many factors leading to obesity present early. The more knowledge and information people have, the better equipped they are to plan and work to reverse early factors that cause children to become obese.
The federal government picked up the tab for the study which tracked just under 8,0000 elementary school children. Children were tracked when they started kindergarten. The numbers are in, just over 10 percent were obese and a little over 10 percent were overweight. When they reached the end of middle school, just over 20 percent were obese, and just under 20 percent were overweight.
Programs with weight conscious initiatives began 15 years ago addressing what looked like would continue to be a growing epidemic of obese children who were being placed in high-risk categories for childhood illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of regular exercise were going to be leading factors for producing overweight and obese adults.
The push towards healthy initiatives were directed through studies that randomly selected children and concluded, that of the nearly 2000 Native American Southwest children in an initial study, and just over seven thousand children in a second study, taken from 96 schools in Texas, Louisiana, California, and Minnesota that there was no effect on children in either group.
The latest studies including the one noted by New England research concludes, that determining factors examined for childhood obesity include a big one, genetics. Obesity researcher and professor of clinical biochemistry and medicine at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, says that for 50 years medical scientists have known that body mass index (B.M.I.) is a highly heritable trait. Which means if a person tends to be fat it happens at an early age.
Stephen Gortmaker, teaches health sociology at the Harvard School of Public Health says there exists encouragement in the fact that younger children have the ability to gain or lose weight easier than adults where the weight gain tends to be more significant ranging from 20-50 pounds. He adds that the fact that it can take a longer period of time to lose double digits than children who may only need to lose a small amount of weight to cross back into normal ranges which keeps them healthy.
Dr. Denise Wifley, a researcher at the University of Washington St. Louis, says effective treatment in stagnating obesity is available for children. It is not covered by insurance and carries an out-of-pocket cost between $1,500-$3,000 for a year of intervention.
Wifley does not agree with what she sees as ineffective. The process where a family practitioner tells a parent distraught over a child’s morbid obesity tells the parent that the child will, simply out grow it.
There has to be a middle ground alternative. Low-income families are more likely to have a child facing the challenges of obesity because of the selection of available foods in their neighborhood and higher prices. These parents cannot afford the out-of-pocket cost for intervention. A better way at addressing it is more affordable or free community based nutrition and exercise programs that are low-cost. Resources that people can afford and that work can offer those needing services with opportunities to help combat the risk factors that present. The information given in the New England study examined the factors determining childhood obesity. Parents can use that and similar information as a basis for making small changes at home. Reducing junk food with healthier alternatives and engaging with children in physical activity are helpful starting points.
By C. Imani Williams