Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak
Although obesity rates among children and teenagers in the past decade have risen considerably, new statistics show there may be reason for optimism ahead. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), over the past thirty years the population of obese teenagers has more than doubled. Nonetheless, a recent study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the obesity rate of young children ages two to five years old has dropped drastically by 43 percent in the past decade.
While the impact of this decrease in youth obesity may seem to affect only a small percentage of the country, the opposite is true. Statistics from the second half of 2013 show that children who become overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times as likely as children with a healthy weight to be overweight or obese as adults, according to the CDC. In fact, 32 percent of kids who were overweight when they entered kindergarten become obese by age 14. As the rate of overweight or obese preschoolers drops, it may influence teen and adult obesity in years to come.
In 2013, obesity was related to one third of all health care costs according to the HHS. Although all of the data in this statistic concern teen and child obesity, they raise the question of why the rates are so high in the United States. Just last year it was reported by the CDC that a majority of obese children come from low-income housing, and only a quarter of adolescents ages 12-15 get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
One explanation for these statistics is the lack of accessibility low-income families have to healthy foods. Whether this is because of lack of nutritional education, the absence of health foods in low-income areas, or simply the extra cost of eating healthy, families without the resources to change their habits are the ones most affected.
Michelle Obama’s awareness campaign, “Let’s Move!”, launched in 2010, offers solutions to child obesity. Through various events including an appearance on “Sesame Street” with Big Bird and Elmo, she has spoken about nutrition to children across the nation.
Her campaign may have influenced a new statistic found by the CDC: Since 2008, 19 of 43 states studied showed a decline in obesity among low-income preschoolers. Mrs. Obama remarked in CDC’s announcement, “I am thrilled at the progress we’ve made over the last few years in obesity rates among our youngest Americans.”
After a decade of increased rates of obesity for adults, teens, and children across the U.S., any positive change is encouraging.