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Childhood Obesity Rates in US Worsens as Rate Hits 18.5%

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The childhood obesity crisis in the US has worsened as the obesity rate rose to 18.5 percent in 2015 from 14 percent in 1999 for kids aged 2 to 19. The data indicated that the country is losing the war despite hopes that it might ebb in some parts of the US a few years ago when former First Lady Michelle Obama spearheaded the Let’s Move campaign.

Other than Obama’s initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation pledged in 2015 a $500-million initiative to speed progress for children of color and those who live in poverty. Those two groups are the hardest hit by the national obesity crisis.

Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of population health service at Duke University, said that the main take-home message of the new study, published on Monday in Pediatrics journal, is that obesity remains a problem. The situation is not improving even as childhood obesity rates have been going up for decades, National Public Radio reported.

Widespread alarm

The situation has sparked widespread alarm among public health officials and researchers. Their concern pertains to the possibility that the obese children, when they become adults, will be prone to health problems such as cancer, heart ailments, and diabetes.

Skinner and her team analyzed the latest national data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It is one of the main measures of childhood obesity prepared by the federal government.

Between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, the surveys showed no statistical difference in the overall obesity rate. It dashed hopes that obesity has somewhat declined in recent years. Not only was there no reduction, there was even a significant jump in the youngest age group of 2 to 5 to almost 14 percent from 9 percent.

Skinner said it is the highest level of obesity they have seen in that age group since 1999. The hike more than made up for any decrease that happened for the same period in the previous survey.

Obesity in the youngest group

She pointed out that when obesity emerges in the youngest age group, it is a concern. Skinner explained that when obesity begins younger, most of the children continue to have obesity throughout childhood and into adulthood. The earlier it manifests, the harder it is for these children to address the problem.

Dr. Stephen Daniels, the chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, pointed out that once obesity is established, it is really hard to reverse, according to Consumer Reports.

The government had seen the epidemic of childhood obesity and has been pouring research dollars into the problem for at least two decades. However, despite the efforts, it apparently is not placing a big dent into the situation, Dr. Sarah Armstrong, an associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University, said.

What is needed is to double the efforts and discover what is going to work because the health of the future generation is really in danger, Armstrong said. Dr. David Ludwig, from Boston Children’s Hospital, sought a more comprehensive national strategy to fight the problem in an editorial that accompanied the publication of the paper.

He noted that lack of a truly systematic or comprehensive approach across society which addresses all drivers of childhood obesity such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and a healthy food supply to encourage everyone to eat well.

By ethnicity, it is the Hispanic and African-American kids who continue to be likely to become obese than white children, according to the analysis.

Fattest generation on record

The problem is not limited to the US but felt across other western nations. The Telegraph reported that new projections showed that 75 percent of all millennials will be overweight or obese by the time they approach 40. It will make them the fattest generation on record.

In contrast, the Baby Boomers never had it so good, according to an analysis by Cancer Research UK. The analysis showed that 6 million Britons who came of age around the millennium are far more likely to have a weight problem compared to their parents who had a much lower overweight or obesity rate of 54 percent.

As the second leading cause of cancer, after smoking, experts described the figures as horrifying. Experts said that people born in the 1980s and 1990s have a reputation for following health food trends, but they are already battling major weight problems which are projected to even worsen unless there is a major overhaul of the British diet.

Alison Cox, the director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, noted that most people are not aware of the substantial risk of cancer. She said that if more people will become aware of the link, it may help spare not only the millennials but all generations from cancer. It launched on Monday a campaign to alert the public of the links between obesity and cancer and called for a clamp down on the marketing of junk foods.

[메디컬리포트=Vittorio Hernandez 기자]

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