The most recent study on childhood obesity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Kentucky did not see a decline, but was among the 20 states that held steady at its current rate with no increase. A slight decline in childhood obesity was found in 19 states.
Only three states — Colorado, Tennessee and Pennsylvania — saw an increase.
To better track local childhood obesity rates, the Kentucky Department of Education has added Body Mass Index (BMI) to the preventative health examination that is required before kindergarten and sixth grade.
This aggregate data should soon be available at the state and local levels.
This was the first time in decades that there has been any decline in childhood obesity.
About one in eight preschoolers are still obese in the United States. Children are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as an adult if they are overweight or obese between the ages of three and five years.
Obesity is linked to many chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain forms of cancer. CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “Obesity in early childhood increases the risk of serious health problems for life.”
Children are considered obese if their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex according to the 2000 CDC Growth Charts. Children are considered overweight if their BMI is between the 85th and less than the 95th percentile. An online childhood BMI calculator is available at http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/.
The CDC encourages business leaders, childcare providers, healthcare providers, families, governments, schools and community advocates to increase access to nutritious foods and physical activity in places where young children live, learn and play.
Some of the CDC suggested strategies for decreasing childhood obesity include:
- Making it easier for families to buy healthy, affordable foods and beverages in their neighborhoods.
- Helping provide access to safe, free drinking water in places such as community parks, recreation areas, childcare centers and schools.
- Helping local schools open gyms, playgrounds and sports fields during non-school hours so children can play safely after school, on weekends and over the summer.
- Helping child care providers adopt best practices for improving nutrition and physical activity and for limiting computer and television time.
- Creating partnerships with civic leaders, childcare providers and others to make community changes that promote healthy eating and active living.
Such changes are underway in Frankfort and Franklin County.
The Franklin County Health Department and Frankfort YMCA recently received a National Association of County and City Health Officials Model Practice Award for working with all public and private elementary schools to integrate 10 minutes of physical activity into the daily classroom curriculum.
Other local examples include the healthy options menu that has been available at Juniper Hill Pool for the last two years; healthy eating policies at child care centers such as the YMCA Crayon Club and partnerships such as Franklin County MAPP (Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships).
For more information about childhood obesity visit www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood.
Judy Mattingly holds a Master of Arts degree in health communication and is the accreditation coordinator at the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Rd.