Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Does Number Of Obese Kids Decline?

Childhood obesity has always been a headache for most nations. When a child is overweight or obese, it is very likely that he or she will be an overweight or obese adult who might become a victim of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stroke.

Because of the prevailing lifestyle, childhood obesity has become an epidemic. Health organizations and government authorities have put in a lot of efforts in curbing the rising trend.

In a paper published in 2014 in the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Pediatrics’, researchers from New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that the most obese children in the New York City have taken off the most weight. 

For the study, the researchers looked at the annual weight and height data taken on nearly 950,000 school children aged between 5 and 14 in public schools for the 2006-2007 school year and compared the 2010-2011 school year. Their analysis showed that comparing to 2006-2007 school year, severe obesity among NYC public school students in grades K-8 decreased 9.5 percent and obesity decreased 5.5 percent.

Though the numbers are rather small, they did reverse a 40-year trend. Since the 1970s, the rate of obesity had more than tripled, and nearly 6 percent of the American kids are severely obese nationally.

On the other hand, data from very large national surveys show that all kinds of obesity are rising in American children. Some other studies, however, have shown that there are declines in extreme obesity among the very youngest kids who might be the easiest to influence. 

Measurement of obesity in kids is different from that in adults. Children are considered overweight if they are in the 85th to 95th percentile of the BMI (body mass index), for all children their age. Anything over the 95th percentile is obese; severe obesity (Class 2) is at 120 percent and morbid obesity (Class 3) is defined as 140 percent. 

According to researchers, a lot of things have been done in schools. The Department of Education has a program called ‘Move to Improve’ that trains public school teachers on means to incorporate fitness into classrooms. For instance, the youngest kids might be encouraged to stand up at their desks and walk in place as they imagine taking a nature walk, while older kids might dance. 

Meanwhile, schools have also been forced to improve the food they are serving. In fact, most New York public school kids get free meals at school, and this sets norms for what they eat outside school. But kids are exposed to other influences one they step out the school.

Clearly, many more need to be done. The city wants to work next to encourage supermarket chains to open more stores in neighborhoods. The city has also started a program called ‘Health Bucks’, which distributes $2 vouchers for people to use at farmer’s markets, to encourage people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

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