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21. A Growing Epidemic: Childhood Obesity

A Growing Epidemic:  Childhood Obesity

The number of cases of childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years.  Currently, the CDC reports that 20% of 6-11 year olds in the US are medically obese.  (This is defined as having a body mass index in the 95th percentile when adjusted for age and sex.)  Obesity in childhood is associated with many of the same health issues and increased risks as are found in adults:  high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, low back pain, and lower extremity pain from increased pressure on the joints.  The National Institute of Health reports that most kids are spending between 5-7 hours/day in front of a screen (TV, computer, video game system). 

Oregon has the lowest rate of childhood obesity in the United states in studies at

Children today are becoming more sedentary, easily bored, and are relentlessly exposed to countless commercials and peer pressure encouraging poor choices in food and/or activities.  The National Institute of Health recommends limiting daily ‘screen’ time to 2 hours or less per day.  It is important for both kids and their parents to fully buy-in to a change in activity level and/or diet in order for it to be successful.  This can be done by setting goals to increase daily physical activities and decrease sedentary time.  Some options for increasing activity levels include:  organized sports, pool, exercise DVDs, going to the gym, biking – providing choices and changing activities often helps prevent boredom.   

The Health Care Affordability Act of 2010 mandates that private insurance cover obesity screening and counseling for children.   There are many programs around the country that specialize on obesity in all ages.  One such program in Wilmington, Delaware, called the Alfred I DuPont Hospital for Children follows the 5-2-1-Almost None program:  5 fruits/vegetables per day, 2 hours or less of screen time per day, 1 hour of physical activity per day, and Almost None sugary drinks.  This is an easy guide to follow and an excellent starting place for your own home program.

If you need help designing a program for you, or your child(ren), contact your local physician, physical therapist, and/or the YMCA.  You should always be cleared by your doctor before you start a new exercise program.

Written by Jodi Flanagan, MPT

Published May 2012

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