Childhood obesity remains national, global epidemic

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LEDE MAY 16, 2013 ATLANTA Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton practices the long jump with students at Mary Lin Elementary School Thursday, May 16, 2013. Fresh off the announcement that the Georgia Department of Public Health is partnering with the Department of Education to increase physical activity during the school day, Olympic Gold Medalist Eaton (decathlon, London 2012) and American sprinter and hurdler Queen Harrison (hurdles, Beijing 2008) joined students at the school as they play GoNoodle. A free online classroom resource, GoNoodle partners with Olympic athletes to bring short bursts of physical activity into the classroom to stimulate learning and improve overall health. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
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MAY 16, 2013 ATLANTA Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton practices the long jump with students at Mary Lin Elementary School. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Some years ago while reporting on the shortage of school nurses here in Georgia, I was shocked by what I found.

It wasn’t the shortage of nurses, although that was bad enough. It was the stories nurses told me about caring for children — some as young as 6 — who were so overweight they suffered from elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes. At least one student, a nurse recalled, had knee and joint problems due to the extra weight.

One mom at the time talked to me about the challenge she faced:

“It’s so saturated now with phones and video games and 200 (TV) channels,” said Dawsonville mother Amy Burns, who was raising two young boys. “I think it’s a constant battle just to get your kids to move.”

 

Childhood obesity isn’t just a problem here in Georgia, where the latest data shows 16.5 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds are obese. It’s a global epidemic.

A recent World Health Organization report found that in 2013, 42 million infants and young children were overweight or obese; that number is predicted to reach 70 million in less than a decade.

In the U.S., childhood obesity rates have stabilized in recent years. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that obesity rates remain high. And we still have millions of obese children who statistically are likely to become obese adults, costing states — including Georgia — billions of dollars every year in medical bills, higher insurance premiums and lost productivity at work.


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