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Families in Crisis; Childhood Obesity (First the Statistics)

April 7, 2010 1 comment

The real story about childhood obesity revolves around an era/generation of immediate gratification. Think about standing in front of your microwave waiting for the 1 minute meal and saying, “Hurry”. Think about working on your computer, it crashes, requires a reboot, and you are saying “Hurry”. Think about driving to work on a busy, crowded street and risk getting one car length ahead because you are in a “Hurry”. What is it about our lives where we no longer care about ourselves, which results in our not caring about the welfare of our children?

Childhood Obesity is a serious weight, self esteem, health care cost, and physical productivity problem in America. Who is to be held accountable; the Fast Food industry, the Parents, the Teachers, the Schools, the Government, the Pediatricians, the Pharmaceutical companies?

Let us begin at the beginning. To make this very simple – it’s the Parents! They are the ones who get the kids started. They establish the patterns. They teach by example. Their children follow them like ducklings behind their mother. In America 32% of 2-7 years and 65% of 8-18 years have television in their bedrooms. Is this excessive sitting in front of a TV not the responsibility of the parents? It is your household, you make the rules! When a parent drives through Burger King or KFC for dinner every night the children accept this as being “The Way”. When a parent sits in front of a TV all night the children see this as “The Way”. Children are the reflection of their parents.

Research studies show that most eating and physical activity habits are exclusively established in childhood. Psychologists say that most of one’s lifelong habits and traits are established by the age of 12.  Excess body fat that is accumulated in a child persists throughout childhood and into adulthood. Further, childhood obesity studies reveal that 40% of obese children and 70% of obese adolescents become obese adults. Indeed, by the time an obese child turns six years old, his/her chance of becoming an obese adult is over 50%.

Let us also keep in the front of our minds the calorie loaded, nutrient absent food served in our public schools across America. Do not forget the vending machines with the Corporate colas, which are consumed in place of juice or milk, or the candy, donuts, cookies, chips, and other junk food that our ‘uneducated in nutrition’ children have at their disposal. Parents begin it and if they don’t serve it at home, the schools will stuff our children with calorie filled junk food because they don’t care; they are not their kids.

Some sobering statistics:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years. (“Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002”; Oct. 6, 2004)
  • Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999.  (“Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005,” Institute of Medicine.)
  • Nearly one-third of U.S. Children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food every day, resulting in approximately six extra pounds per year, per child. Fast food consumption has increased fivefold among children since 1970. (“Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey,” Pediatrics, January 2004.)
  • For children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is estimated to be about 30 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. (“Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005,” Institute of Medicine.)
  • In a population-based sample, approximately 60 percent of obese children aged 5 to 10 years had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor, such as elevated total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin or blood pressure, and 25 percent had two or more risk factors.  (“Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005,” Institute of Medicine.)

Sobering Minority Data:

  • Among boys, the highest prevalence of obesity is observed in Hispanics. Among girls, the highest prevalence is observed in African Americans. (“Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005,” Institute of Medicine.)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-Hispanic black (21 percent) and Mexican-American adolescents (23 percent) ages 12-19 were more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic white adolescents (14 percent).  (“Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002”; Oct. 6, 2004.)
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mexican-American children ages 6-11 were more likely to be overweight (22 percent) than non-Hispanic black children (20 percent) and non-Hispanic white children (14 percent).  (“Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002”; Oct. 6, 2004.)

Sobering Healthcare Costs:

  • Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999.  (“Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005,” Institute of Medicine.)
  • Obese individuals spend 36% more on health care costs and 77% more on medications per year than individuals of normal weight.
  • Lost productivity related to obesity among Americans ages 17 to 64 costs $3.9 billion a year.

I find it interesting as I listen nightly to the ongoing intense adult discussions about civil rights, the Constitution, and individual rights, that little is said about the rights of our children to have a health filled life and the looming catastrophe of the loss of our children.  Who speaks for them?

My next post is “Food for Thought”.

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Education in Crisis; An Incidental Conversation in a Bedouin Tent, Part 6

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I was traveling in the 70’s with my husband. He was consulting in the Middle East and I was his sidekick. He was involved in desert irrigation. I was involved in photography. We were guests of the desert Bedouin as he studied ways to bring water into these arid places. One evening as we sat in a large tent drinking tea with our translator, the Sheik joined us. He was interested in America, and we discussed many topics that long, memorable night. His curiosity was insatiable.

He was particularly captivated with our conversation on American families and education. When he completed his questions we stood to say goodbye. He looked straight at me and with a smile in his intense dark eyes, he said, “Uneducated mothers do not raise educated children.”

Setting aside the misunderstandings many Americans have regarding this part of the world, this comment stayed with me as it foreshadowed the insight of his words. I had no children then, when he changed my life and my perception. I am sure you have had an incidental conversation with someone passing through your life. They came and went, and left you with an altered perception. Somehow, nothing was the same after their incidental remark. Growth had occurred.

Let me fast forward 25 years to an article written in the Washington Post by George Will, March 21, 2010. He is writing about Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s vow to unleash upon the public schools, “legions of lawyers wielding Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act…to rectify what he considers violations, such as too many white students in high school Advanced Placement classes. He says his rights enforcers, 600 of them, with a $103 million budget, will remedy discrimination…”

Will goes on to say, “Plainly put, the best indicator of a school’s performance is family performance (emphasis mine)—qualities of the family from which the students come.”

Family is the crucial element in a child’s life. Family means 2 parents. It means both parents living together in full support of their children while fostering emotional security and safety, which encourages the ability of the children to explore their creative and natural curiosities. Parents, who are intensely involved with their children, offer environments and upbringing where AP courses and high SAT scores are often the result of educated parents, with a family income, who live in the same home with their children.

I was surprised at George Will’s statistics. Would it surprise you, as it did me, that 71.6% of African American children and 51.3% of Latino children are born to unmarried mothers? Could these single parent families, with low incomes, no fathers, and sparse discipline be a reason why AP classes are filled with “white students” as Arne Duncan claims? The government cannot hide behind “rights” when the real reason for “disparity” in AP classes is due to the lack of family structures within the minority communities. The government camouflages the breakdown of family structures within these communities as a “civil rights issue” when it is a family structure issue.

Family, 2 parents in the same home, is the blood that fills the veins of the children. Mothers are the child’s first influence. It is she who teaches values, compassion, and respect. It is she who puts their little feet on the road to education and fulfillment. It is the father who brings balance.

“Uneducated mothers do not raise educated children.”

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