Statistics show that nearly one fourth of children in this country are obese. Obesity is defined as body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI-for-age growth charts. Children with BMI between the 85th and 95th percentile are classified as overweight. BMI is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. Childhood obesity not only puts a child at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and orthopedic complications, statistics also show that obese children are more likely to become obese adults. The increasing epidemic of overweight and obese children and adults is a serious cause for concern in the state of Texas. Not only do the medical consequences impact the quality of life they currently cause economic burden for our healthcare system. The economic costs of overweight and obesity in Texas during 2001 were an estimated $10.5 billion. This includes direct healthcare costs, such as medication and hospital stays, and indirect costs, such as lost productivity in the work place and wages due to illness and death. If this continues and goes on to escalate, the annual costs associated with obesity in Texas is projected to reach an astronomical $39 billion by the year 2040. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010, not one state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more. Texas was included in the 12 states that ranked highest at a rate of 30 percent or more. So, what can Abilene residents do to reduce this problem of seemingly epidemic proportions?
Recognize obesity for the problem it is
Many people flat out keep their heads in the sand. Rather than see obesity for the hazardous problem it is, a large number of individuals tend to turn to excuses and defense mechanisms to simply avoid the issue. In Abilene, great strides have been taken to improve health in other areas except in the area of obesity. A city ordinance was passed Jan. 3, 2007 that would ban smoking in many public establishments for the purpose of protecting the public health and welfare of the citizens of the City of Abilene.
The American with Disabilities Act protects individuals with handicaps or disabilities from discrimination, and the September 2008 amendment extended the definition of disability so that obesity and obesity health-related issues are considered a disability. The act became effective January 2009 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is creating regulations and guidelines based on the ADAAA. Texas considers smoking tobacco a health risk, yet seemingly condones obesity. Although complications from smoking-related illness are considered self induced, so are those of obese individuals. While a person has the right to speak out against smoking, they can be sued for speaking out against obesity due to the fact that many see it as merely a cosmetic problem. In an article by Candy Reagan, Abilene Families Editor http://abilenefamilies.com/main.html , Dr. Rob Wiley, an Abilene pediatrician said ‘the statistics are alarming and the childhood obesity problem is not just a cosmetic issue. It’s a health issue.’ Abilenians need to get serious about the true issue. The fact of the matter is, indeed, health. Type 2 diabetes is the type commonly developed as a result of obesity, and is of growing concern. According to Dr. Wiley the incidence of type 2 diabetes was at one time seldom in children. Now, one in two children diagnosed with diabetes is type 2. Admitting this is more a serious health problem than a social acceptance problem is a first important step.
For the most part, obesity is the direct result of chosen lifestyle that is, in turn, taught to our children by example. Many Abilenians have little time for anything, much less cooking healthy meals. Most families rely on two incomes just to survive and then there are single parents who have an even more difficult time. A few simple changes can have major impact on your overall quality of life. Reportedly, school children watch an average of 3 hours of television per day. Most of their diets consist of high calorie, high sodium fast foods and packaged foods that are quick and simple to prepare. High calorie sodas are commonplace rather than a luxurious treat. Diet sodas contain artificial sweetener which actually stimulate the appetite. So where can you even begin to make a change?
Begin with ‘make ahead meals’ and crockpot recipes. There are many healthy recipe options on websites, such as Good housekeeping. A wholesome meal your family will find a refreshing change eaten together without distraction can be a simple step with large benefit to all. The next step will be difficult for all. Disable the cable, ditch the dish. Sit down with your children and make a television schedule. Limiting television encourages other activity. Instead, take a nature walk with young children or cruise the mall with your teenagers. Find alternative activities that get you up and moving and not related to food. Join a dance class instead of sitting and watching Dancing with the Stars. Go bird watching and skip the new episode of Survivor. Grab a bottle of water and save the soda for a special treat. As children, some of us remember “going for a coke” as a major event. Simplify life and the simple things become thrilling again. Finding physical activities to do as a family is not only good for physical health, but for the solidarity of the family relationship.
Healthy body and healthy mind go hand in hand. Each person is a role model for future generations, like it or not. The loudest voice a young person hears is the voice of example. We cannot simply say it, we must live it. All the excuses in the world will not overcome the consequences of teaching our children that it is ok to be overweight. The statistics are clear and obesity is a completely treatable condition. Let’s teach them before it’s too late.