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About 1/3 of children in the United States of America are obese or over weight, having Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than the 85th percentile. Obesity leads to heart disease, Diabetes, Cancer, Muscle and Bone problems, Breathing and Behavioral problems. Childhood obesity has become a pandemic and it is a threat to global health. It is increasing the disease state and death in alarming proportion. It has been predicted that for the first time in the history of United States the present younger generation may have a life expectancy less than that of the older generations mainly because of obesity and its complications. 2006 CDC ( center for Disease Control) study found that the costs of hospitalizations related to childhood obesity has gone up from $125.9 million in 2001 to $237.6 million in 2005. The estimated national cost of obesity is about $ 147 billion per year which makes up to 9.1 percent of medical spending.
Childhood obesity is very complex and it should be fought at every level. Childhood obesity is more prevalent in lower socioeconomic, racial and ethnic minority populations in United States. Among African Americans and Hispanics about 50% of the children are obese/overweight.
It was not like this before. Before when we were kids many of us used to walk to school and played outside most of the time and ate home cooked food sitting with our family around the table. Now children are going to school by car or bus, and do not want to get out and play. They are engaged in watching TV, Playing videogames, texting or surfing internet. Parents work long hours and they do not have time for home cooked family meals. Children are flooded with commercials showing large portion size fast foods and sugary drinks.
Eating high calorie food with low micronutrients which are present in abundance in fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables make the children fat but undernourished. This leads to debilitating and costly health problems. Similarly inactive lifestyle also increases these risks. So American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with some easy to remember goals for the children. Those are 5 2 1 0. That is 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, only 2 or less hours of TV watching/ Video games/Computer time unrelated to school work, 1 hour of vigorous activity and 0 sweetened drinks which include sodas and fruit juices in a day.
It is only the beginning. We have a long way to go. Nutritious food, good eating behaviors and increased physical activity have incredible prospect to reduce childhood obesity. If each and every one of us do our part and work in unity we certainly can reach our goal.