Despite reports of improvement in some areas of the country, our childhood obesity problem as a whole has been steadily getting worse since 1999—and experts are concerned that the average American lifespan may be at risk.
A study conducted by researchers at Duke University, the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest University used data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine that obesity rates among children and teens have been rising at a consistent rate—with about a third of American youth now classified as overweight and 4.5 million considered severely obese.
Authors of the study, published in the journal Obesity, are concerned that the increase has continued despite nationwide efforts aimed at advocating healthier eating and daily physical activity. And, because we are starting to see a trend in heart disease and metabolic disorders affecting kids as young as eight years old, they caution it may lead to chronic disease in adulthood and eventually shortened lifespans.
“This is really a population health problem that will require changes across the board—food policy, access to healthcare, school curriculums that include physical education, community and local resources in parks and sidewalks,” said lead author Asheley Skinner with Duke University. She and her colleagues believe the solution lies in a broad-spectrum approach involving health care practitioners, parents and communities working to create a healthier environment for kids.