Obesity needs our attention

Surprise, surprise: America has a weight problem.

Of course, it’s no surprise. Look around. The only surprise is that despite all the evidence of how harmful obesity is — high blood pressure, heart disease, premature death, diabetes — it’s getting worse. A report out earlier this week says that if America doesn’t get its weight problem under control, more than half the adults in Ohio, Kentucky and three other states will be obese by 2018.

The report, out of Emory University in Atlanta, projects that in a decade, the national obesity rate will grow from 31.3 percent in 2008 to 42.8 percent by 2018.

“Oh, Lord,” was University of Cincinnati obesity researcher Randy Seeley’s reaction to the news. We agree.

We’ve been talking about the issue of obesity, generally defined as a BMI of 30 or greater, for quite a while. What concerns us is the seeming lack of understanding that this is a kid problem as much as, if not more than, it’s an adult problem.

  • Today, one in three children born in Ohio is overweight by age eight.
  • Children who are obese when they are 10 have an 80 percent chance of being obese as an adult.
  • 60 percent of overweight kids have at least one cardiovascular risk factor.

These statistics are heartbreaking. And expensive.

“Obesity is going to be a leading driver in rising health-care costs,” says Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the department of health policy and management at Emory University in Atlanta.

  • An obese person will have an average of $8,315 in medical bills a year in 2018 compared with $5,855 for an adult at a healthy weight. That’s a difference of $2,460.
  • If the percentage of obese adults doesn’t change but stays at the current rate of 34%, then excess weight will cost the nation about $198 billion by 2018.

And these 2018 projections are based on the fact that many of today’s obese kids and teens will be obese adults in ten years. These numbers are rising because a staggering number of children are growing up obese and don’t know how to break the cycle.

So what can be done? A major piece of legislation on obesity was introduced Tuesday at the Ohio state house. Lisa Simpson, director of Child Policy Research at Cincinnati Children’s, testified Tuesday and yesterday in favor of the legislation. More on that to come from Lisa shortly.

But essentially, it comes down to education for parents and guardians, getting kids moving on a daily basis and providing good nutrition. These things will help prevent obesity, and ultimately, that is the only way to combat the trend, as researchers say there aren’t many options for treating people who are already obese.

Kate Setter

About the Author: Kate Setter

Kate manages social media at Cincinnati Children's, a role that she loves because it gives her opportunities to help families find stories and pediatric health information that they want and need. Kate is the mother of two elementary-age kiddos.

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  1. Weight Control November 21, 18:07
    We need the truth – and real help making better choices. Weight Control