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Childhood Obesity: Early Steps Needed to Prevent a Growing Problem

August 6, 2009

CINCINNATI - Stemming the epidemic of childhood obesity is no easy task, but some experts say early intervention is a good place to start. Ohio now ranks 15th in the country for having the highest rate of obese children, a rate that has tripled over the past 25 years.

Physician Meg Zeller, associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says addressing the issue at a young age is important, because obese children are likely to carry their extra weight into adolescence and adulthood.

"The earlier in a child's life they learn healthy eating and healthy activity levels and make them a part of who they are, the more it will ease the burden long-term and create a much healthier generation."

The majority of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese, and Zeller says that is not helping the issue of childhood obesity.

"Our perceptions of what's normal have begun to move more along the lines of being overweight and obese, which then leads a kid to going undiagnosed."

If a child carries excess weight, it puts them at greater risk for developing typically what used to be adult diseases, Zeller warns.

"Increasingly, Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and hypertension are three of the big ones kids are now dealing with on a day-to-day basis."

It is important for parents to have a realistic view of their child and take any concerns to their pediatrician, Zeller counsels. The best place to start creating a healthier lifestyle is at home, through better food choices and increased activity, she adds, and connecting with a dietician, behavioral psychologist or the even the local YMCA also would be beneficial.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH