Improving the overweight generation

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gerald Hall
  • 78th Medical Group Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
The prevalence of child obesity has increased rapidly during the past two decades and is now considered a global epidemic. 

Nearly one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese.     The annual direct medical cost - not including associated illness - for U.S. childhood obesity is about $14.3 billion.  

What is overweight or obese? 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has assigned risk of long-term consequences to overweight and obese children whose age-by-gender body mass index are equal to or exceed the 85th and 95th percentiles respectively.   

How to address or prevent children from becoming overweight: 
It's been found that a child's environment is the single largest contributor to weight gain. 

The highest risk is related to parent feeding practices and activity. The weight gain environment is attributed to a lack of physical activity and poor diet. More formally it is an environment that places a child in a situation, circumstance, or surrounding where there is the opportunity to choose, engage in, or be influenced by effects that promote an abnormal or elevated BMI percentile. 

The characteristics in a child's environment that may influence abnormal weight gain include factors within the home, such as food choices, food availability, activity, and child behavior. Characteristics also include factors outside the home, such as food availability, recreational facilities, school activities and food practices. The Institute of Medicine declared in 2011 that parents are the key members in the promotion of healthy eating habits and regular physical activities for their children.  

What can be done?
Parents need to evaluate the environment their children live in. A healthy environment includes improved nutrition by increasing fruit and vegetable intake as well as decreasing the intake of fat and sugar, increased physical activity, and decreased time spent in sedentary activities. 

There are often parental concerns about confidence or knowledge about a health promoting environment. The great news is your primary care practice is available to assist in the development of an environment conducive to health and the reduction of risks associated with overweight and obese children. There are other services available as well, the Coordinated Approach to Child Health or CATCH Kids Club is a nutrition and activity program periodically offered at Robins.   

For more information on CATCH Kids, call the Health and Wellness Center at 327-8480. For more health tips visit: or