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A Social Ecological Approach To Rising Levels Of Overweight And Obesity In Children And Adolescents In The United States

1945 words - 8 pages

Childhood onset overweight and obesity and its’ associated health consequences are quickly becoming major significant public health issues facing America today. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define overweight as a body mass index (BMI) between the 85th and 95th percentile while obese is defined as BMI above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex . The prevalence of overweight children, defined based on 2009 CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics data, has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2006, the incidence of overweight among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% to 17.0% while overweight levels for adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 17.6% . Not only has prevalence of child and adolescent overweight and obesity increased dramatically over the last several decades, but being an overweight or obese child puts one at a heightened risk for adult overweight and obesity .
Related to this threat, the chance of developing serious health conditions exists; these include orthopedic complications, hypertension, heart disease, and type two diabetes among others . An associated behavior linked to overweight and obesity in children is a lack of physical activity. Participation in physical activity as a child is important because it often leads to an active adult lifestyle. Physical activity may have beneficial effects on not just body weight, but overall health. Ultimately, if overweight and obese children grow into overweight and obese adults, they are at risk for a shortened life due to this disease and/or related ailments. Understanding risk factors and potential interventions for childhood overweight and obesity serves as a start to address the perpetuating problem and obesity epidemic currently facing the United States.
A number of interrelated genetic, behavioral, and environmental risk factors contribute to childhood overweight and obesity. Research has shown an ethnic and racial disparity in the frequency of childhood overweight and obesity. Specifically, minority children face a disproportionately higher chance of obesity; Taveras, Gillman, Kleinman, Rich-Edwards, and Rifas-Shiman agree: “…many risk factors for child obesity are more prevalent among black and Hispanic children than among white children (p. 693). ” They go on to write that additional variables affecting those two minority groups include belonging to a lower socioeconomic class, sleeping less than their white counterparts, and a greater likelihood of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food after age two .
In one of few studies to include Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino youth in addition to blacks and whites in examining risk factors associated with overweight, Haas et al. research showed black or Latino children aged 6-11 years of age having a greater likelihood of being overweight compared with their white counterparts . In addition, Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino...

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