CDC: Early Childhood Obesity Down, More Improvement Needed


The number of young obese children in the United States has gone down according to new data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the CDC data showed that obesity among children between the ages of two and five has dropped in the last decade.

Where 13.9 percent of the age group hit the medically obese mark between 2003 and 2004, only 8.4 percent had excess body fat between 2011 and 2012.

And while health officials have been praising the downturn all week, one Baton Rouge, La. doctor says there is much more to be done- especially when it comes to the African American community.

“Overall we still have a pretty significant epidemic,” said Dr. Rani G. Whitfield, a certified family physician with his own practice. “Obesity itself is related to over 30 different diseases including some forms of cancer. It’s across race and class lines but it definitely seems to be affecting African Americans, Hispanics, and even Native Americans more. There’s a lot of work to do.”

According to the study, which included 9,120 patients, “more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of youth in the United States are obese, although the prevalence remained stable between 2003 to 2004 and 2009 to 2010.”

Women who are over the age of 60 saw a significant uptick in their obesity rates, with data from 2003 to 2004 and 2011 to 2012 showing a change from 31.5 percent to 38.1 percent.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute exercise and diet are two key ways to control obesity, which isn’t helped by the lifestyle many Americans live: full of fast food and carryout dinners in between rides in the car and hours behind a desk for majority, sans any real physical activity.

The Institute recommends limiting time spent in front of televisions and computer screens and increase time spent getting up the heart rate.

In a 2010 survey, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that the average child, between the ages of 8 and 18 dedicated more than four hours a day to watching television, an hour and a half to the computer, and more than an hour to video games. Children with televisions in their bedroom are more likely to spend more time in front of the screen.

When it comes to minors, Whitfield also said an emphasis should be placed on the importance of making better choices on a day-to-day basis.

“They need to know that a majority of their plate needs to look green and colorful with lots of fruits, vegetables, and things that are fresh,” said Whitfield, praising the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s switch from the classic food pyramid to the “My Plate” visual initiative which he called “simple” and “easy.”

Whitfield also weighed in on plates on Black tables nationwide, full of the traditional “soul food” fixings.

“I’m in the South that was once called the ‘stroke belt…’ we tend to overindulge whether it’s sodas or fried turkeys,” he told the AFRO.

Whitfield said that many foods considered staple dishes of Black culture, such as collard greens, start off healthy- but quickly go bad during the preparation stages where everything from fatback to sodium ruin the good intentions of eating something green.

“We’re abusing a lot of the vegetables that we thrived on in Africa because we’re not cooking them properly,” he said. “When tradition is killing the community you have to do something.”

“Overweight children tend to be overweight adults and I am treating children with the same medication I use to treat their parents for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol,” said Whitfield.

According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, the obesity begins when an individual is consuming more calories than they are actually using.

Obesity can raise the chances of developing a range of diseases from arthritis to heart disease, but shedding as little as five percent of the body’s weight can cut down or eliminate the increased risk.

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