Advancing Children's Health

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The Childhood Obesity Epidemic – What Parents and Pediatricians Can Do

Published by , on Aug 23, 2012

The childhood obesity epidemic is increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. More than 23 million children in the U.S. are diagnosed as overweight or obese – that’s one in every three children. A child or adolescent is considered obese when they are 20 percent above the average weight for his or her age and height. Childhood obesity is not only detrimental to a child’s health, causing issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol but it can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression.In 2007, Virginia was ranked 25th in obesity prevalence compared to other states. The study showed that 31 percent of children in Virginia were overweight, and 15.2 percent were considered obese. That’s just below the national average, but pediatricians and parents still have a lot of work to do.Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is helping kids stay active during the summer months by working alongside the Shaka Smart Basketball Camp. Children’s Hospital of Richmond provided the campers with healthy, nutritional lunches packed with protein but low in carbs, sugar and fat. High-sugar drinks were substituted with water, white bread was replaced with wheat bread and apples and oranges were provided as opposed to potato chips.There are several preventive measures you can take to keep your child at a healthy weight:

  • Avoid fast food restaurants and plan healthy meals at home.
  • Make it fun for your child to substitute time watching TV or playing sedentary video games with playing the Wii or other interactive games or spending time outside. Support their interest in taking up a sport.
  • Check the nutrition labels on your groceries and avoid artificial ingredients and items high in sugar.
  • Take advantage of venues that require walking, such as parks, the zoo and even museums.

A quick way to determine whether or not your child is obese or overweight is to calculate your child’s BMI (Body Mass Index). Based on your child’s date of birth, sex, height and weight, a pediatrician can determine whether the child’s weight is below average, average, above average, overweight or obese.  You can also evaluate BMI at home with the BMI Percentile Calculator.If you think your child is overweight, consult your physician. Most doctors recommend the whole family get involved in a healthy lifestyle. This benefits everyone and does not single out the overweight child. Be sure to discuss a healthy eating plan with your health provider before putting your child on a “diet”.For additional information and support, download an informational brochure from Children’s Hospital of Richmond’s Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

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