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Teen Health 411

The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

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Over the past 30 years, the rate of obesity has doubled for children and adolescents and 31% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 are now considered overweight (Institute of Medicine, 2005). A recent Social Policy Report, by Krishnamoorthy, Hart, and Jelalian review the research on childhood obesity and make policy recommendations.

The authors describe the sociocultural variables that are thought to contribute to the significant increases in obesity, the serious medical and psychosocial risks associated with pediatric obesity, and interventions have been designed to decrease body mass index (BMI).

Overweight adolescents are at increased risk for a number of medical comorbidities, including hypertension, non-insulin dependent diabetes, insulin resistance, obstructive sleep apnea, and asthma. In addition to medical problems, overweight adolescents are at increased for social and emotional problems. Heavy youth tend to have lower self-esteem, negative body image, and higher levels of depression than normal weight youth, in addition to being teased more by peers.

Some of the contributing factors include easy and quick availability of tasty yet highly caloric foods at relatively low cost and in large quantities, the pervasive marketing of such foods especially to children, and the tendency toward a sedentary life style. Favorite leisure activities such as TV and videogames contribute to children's inactivity. Children need to eat healthier foods, eat less, and be more active.

The bottom line from these authors is that change is required at multiple levels, and they offer suggestions for how parents, schools, communities, and governments can each do their part to tackle this epidemic.

The entire report can be found at: http://www.srcd.org/documents/publications/SPR/spr20-2.pdf



Photo credit: Joe_13
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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