Did you know that 35% of the children between the ages of five and 14 in Louisiana are overweight and 60% are at-risk of becoming overweight? Louisiana Public Broadcasting looks at this rapidly growing problem and what can be done about it in a new documentary called Kids: Trying to Trim Down. This 60-minute documentary features some of the state’s top health professionals explaining the dangers of obesity in children. Those problems include an increased risk of heart disease, Type II Diabetes, asthma and depression.
Among the experts interviewed for the documentary are Dr. Gerald Berenson, the lead researcher in the Bogalusa Heart Study; Pediatrician Dr. Stewart Gordon; and Heidi Schumacher and Melinda Sothern. the authors of the book Trim Kids.
Kids: Trying to Trim Down examines the importance of watching how much kids eat, monitoring a child’s activity level, and understanding the cause of their overeating. Children discuss the difficulties they encounter because of their weight, everything from being teased to developing Type II Diabetes while parents talk about their difficulty in coming to grips with the problem and the sense of relief they felt when they decided to take action.
Melinda Sothern, the director of pediatric obesity research at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center, believes it is important to start attacking this rapidly growing problem now. “I have seen firsthand the devastating physical and emotional effects that weight problems can have on children,“ Sothern said. “I have also witnessed firsthand the incredible transformation of overweight kids into confident healthy and happy children when their parents take charge of their home environment. Today's world of fast food, TV, computer and video games does little to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.”
“Kids: Trying to Trim Down offers some solutions and lifestyle changes that could greatly impact children’s lives and their families as well,” Dr. Gordon said. “I like for kids to watch programs such as this one because many times, I find, the may be the motivator that will change the behavior of the entire family.”
Kids: Trying to Trim Down Producer Dorothy Kendrick believes childhood obesity is a family problem. “It’s evident that all of the children in the program who are and were overweight endured a lot of emotional pain, the kind of pain I believe most overweight children endure. I’m not sure that even some parents, teachers and friends of the children know the depth of the emotional scars,” Kendrick said. “I think this program gives us all a better understanding about the pressures of being overweight. But, more importantly, parents and healthcare experts tell us what it takes to overcome the problem.“
This is the first of a series of reports LPB is presenting on childhood obesity. The educational television network is working with the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center to do more in-depth reporting next year on steps kids should take to lose weight. The programs will target both parents and children.
Why a growing number of children are becoming overweight
Health problems caused by too much weight
Ways to lose weight including:
• Watching what you eat
• How much you eat
• Your attitude about when and why you eat
• The importance of being active
Facts About Obesity
• Researchers tell us 25 percent of American children are overweight.
• The cost of hospitals treating diseases related to obesity has increased from $35 million in 1979 to $127 million in 1999.
• From 1997 to 1999, the prevalence of Type II Diabetes doubled. Gall bladder disease tripled and sleep apnea increased five times.
• Overweight children are taller and they mature faster. Premature maturation is associated with many diseases and emotional problems such as low self-esteem.
Health Problems Linked to Obesity:
• Heart Disease
• Type II Diabetes
• Joint Problems
Risk Factors for Asthma:
• Family History
• African-American Ancestry
Prevalence of Asthma in Children:
Children 6 to 13............6.9 Percent
Obese Children............15 Percent
Pregnancy Guidelines that Could Help Prevent Obesity in Children:
• Eat Healthy Foods
• Take Vitamins
• Don’t Smoke
• Don’t Drink
Your Child’s Risk of Being Overweight:
• 80 Percent if Both Parents are Overweight
• 40 Percent if One Parent is Overweight
Daily Habits of Children:
Watching Television............3 hours
All Media Combined............6.5 hours
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 be restricted from watching television. Pediatricians recommend that other children under 18 watch less than 2 hours of television a week.