Millions of Children Are Diagnosed as Overweight and Obese

Obesity poses a significant threat to adults and children around the globe. Being overweight or obese is a particular concern for children because the extra pounds gained in childhood can follow them into adulthood, potentially leading to serious health issues down the road.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity was 19.7% and affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of two and 19 in the United States between the years of 2017 and 2020. The Government of Canada reports that roughly 30% of Canadian children and adolescents between the ages of five and 17 are overweight or obese. Carrying extra pounds puts children at risk for chronic diseases and health conditions including asthma, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

A healthy lifestyle can turn the tables on the obesity epidemic. Parents and other caregivers are instrumental in helping children avoid the pitfalls of obesity, and the following are some ways they can help kids make healthy choices.

  • Involve children in health discussions. When children visit the pediatrician for periodic health examinations and physicals, inform them in age-appropriate ways about their health. Doctors frequently use charts and body mass index numbers to explain healthy weight ranges. Use these diagrams and data sets to show children where they rank, but don’t make it seem like they made mistakes. Assure them that everyone will work together to get on track.
  • Stock the home with healthy foods. Easy access to high-calorie junk foods is a problem for many kids. Children may be more inclined to reach for a bag of chips than an apple if the chips are easier to access. Parents can keep plenty of healthy food on hand, and limit the propensity to keep sweets or other foods available.
  • Model good behavior. Parents who are overweight themselves and do not eat a healthy balance of foods may be setting the wrong example for their children. Make maintaining a healthy weight a family affair by cooking and exercising together.
  • Encourage physical activity. Parents can set strict parameters on screen usage so that children will have to find other activities to fill their time. When video games or TV shows are no longer available, kids will venture outdoors to ride bikes or play sports.

Overall, millions of children are diagnosed as overweight or obese and may need assistance in getting their weight on track. Parents should be vigilant in their efforts to prevent childhood obesity. Parents and doctors can work together to help children maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if they are currently overweight or obese. Learning to manage weight is an important life lesson that can pay lasting health dividends.