Recently, the Kansas City Star reported on Cali Ann Denham, an individual who has the cholesterol, high blood pressure and triglycerides of a middle-aged woman. The problem is that Cali is just four years old. She weighs 85 pounds.
Alarmingly, stories such as Cali’s are becoming increasingly more common. Since the mid-1970s, obesity rates among American children have tripled. Today, over 16 percent of children and adolescents ages two to 19 are obese.
Are we so desensitized that we don’t see the magnitude of this issue? How can we continue to sit back and raise generations of obese kids? A nation of ill and overweight children apparently isn’t enough to prompt us to take action. Even if we believe there have been improvements in our school lunch programs or the number of children walking to school, more is required to turn the situation around.
It’s evident our children are sick. According to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the U.S., topping drug abuse and smoking. Obesity is causing a range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects: obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression than non-obese children.
Action is needed to help future generations. To do nothing is to condemn children such as Cali to a life of healthcare misery and, most likely, an early grave.
What on earth will it take to alter this dire situation? If sick children aren’t enough to force a change, perhaps economics will work. Healthcare costs per U.S. citizen were over $8,000 in 2008. The Kaiser Family Foundation forecasted that by 2013 that share will skyrocket to over $13,000.
So let’s tackle childhood obesity for the good of our children and the health of our wallets.
It is a complicated situation and we believe more play is part of the solution. What’s your idea?