KCPT: Tipping the Scale on Childhood Obesity
by Barbara Shelly
Like every dieter, the Kansas City region has made its share of resolutions. We would, collectively, move more and consume less. We would cut down on barbecue and stock up on vegetables. Most significantly, we would halt the alarming increase in obesity among our children.
We formed commissions and task forces. Our leaders issued challenges — let’s log more steps, plant more gardens, ditch more pounds. Businesses and foundations stepped up with money for the cause.
Yet Kansas City has absorbed the lesson that every crash dieter learns quickly enough. There is no miracle weight-loss method. Not for an individual or a community. Slimming down — or preventing unhealthy weight gain from happening — requires long-term commitment and hard work.
“These types of changes take years and years of sustained policy work before they make a measurable difference in BMI,” said Michelle Dake, a youth advocacy educator for KC Healthy Kids.
BMI is body mass index — essentially a calculation of body fat. It’s the standard that most health professionals use to determine whether someone’s weight is healthy for their height, age and other factors. Researchers collect representative samples of BMI numbers to determine overweight and obesity rates for states, regions and the nation.
Skyrocketing increases in those rates prompted a call to arms a decade or so ago.
Ten years ago, public health officials didn’t hesitate to describe childhood obesity as a crisis. Nationwide, rates had doubled over 20 years. In part because of the health risks associated with carrying too much weight, teenagers for the first time in U.S. history were projected to live shorter lives than their parents.
Then and now, data from Missouri and Kansas mirrored the overall bad news.
Obesity rates among Missouri and Kansas toddlers ages 2 to 4 whose families participated in the federal WIC program dropped slightly from 2008 to 2014, flattening out at around 13 percent in both states.
Nearly a third of children between the ages of 10 to 17 in Missouri and Kansas are overweight or obese, ranking them 32nd and 25th, respectively, nationwide.
The obesity rate for children ages 2 to 19 nationwide has been consistent at about 17 percent over the last decade of research. But health workers take no comfort in that marker.
“Stabilization is great,” said Shelly Summar, manager for the Weighing In program at Children’s Mercy. “But keep in mind, the rates are still triple what they were 30 or 40 years ago.”
In November, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that, if present trends hold up, 57 percent of today’s teenagers will be obese by the time they reach age 35.
Read the full article via KCPT's Take Note
Learn more about the Weighing In program at Children's Mercy.