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Kentucky Works to Trim Childhood Obesity

PHOTO: Kentucky is working to reduce high rates of childhood obesity, and experts say the earlier healthy eating habits are established in a child's life, the better chance of preventing obesity. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: Kentucky is working to reduce high rates of childhood obesity, and experts say the earlier healthy eating habits are established in a child's life, the better chance of preventing obesity. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
September 8, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – There is both good news and bad when the topic is obesity among Kentucky's children.

While childhood obesity rates have leveled off and even dropped slightly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they continue to remain among the highest in the country in Kentucky.

"When statistics indicate that one in three children born now will develop diabetes in their lifetimes, that – from so many perspectives – is really alarming," says Carolyn Dennis, a registered dietitian.

Dennis points out diabetes is associated with so many health problems that it has enormous financial implications.

According to the CDC, 15.6 percent of Kentucky toddlers are obese before they start kindergarten. That's the sixth-highest rate in the nation.

It jumps to third highest among high-school-age children, with 18 percent obese.

This is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. And Anne Warhover, president and CEO of The Colorado Health Foundation, says adding healthy foods for school lunches, eliminating easy access to sugary drinks and increasing access to public parks are all strategies to reduce childhood obesity.

"It's 100 percent preventable,” she stresses. “We don't need to have this statistic, if we can figure out how to change the culture of health and how to make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Health experts say the research indicates a child who is overweight at age five, is five times more likely to be obese as an adult.

Kentucky is making progress on the problem, says Dennis. She credits a cross-section of child, health and business groups, now working together, and points to a statewide initiative in Kentucky's nearly 3,000 licensed child care centers.

"Working with the licensed child care centers on healthy eating and physical activity standards can really make a big difference for a whole lot of children, if we can get to them at the earliest stage possible," she says.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY