Some minorities at risk of childhood obesity

May 27, 2008 6:08:41 PM PDT
A Dangerous trend threatening millions of children may finally be leveling off.

A new study published in this week's "Journal of American Medicine" found that the percentage of kids reaching obesity appears to be holding steady, after decades of steadily increase.

Researchers crunched the data from more than 8,000 children and teenagers who participated in a national health survey.

They found child obesity levels from 1999 to 2006 were essentially stable.

"I think it's extremely optimistic that we're starting to see the slowing of the rise in obesity in kids," said Dr. Thomas Robinson from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

Dr. Robinson directs the Center for Healthy weight at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

He believes a curb in super-size style advertising to kids has helped. But while he's encouraged by the numbers, he says it could still take decades to reverse the damage.

"That's one of the scary things. We're seeing problems in childhood that we used to not see until adulthood, including type-two diabetes," said Dr. Robinson.

And as it stands, more than 16 percent of children and teens in the U.S. are still considered obese.

The numbers are higher in some minority communities. It is 28 percent among African-American girls and 20 percent among Mexican-American girls.

That's why health care workers at facilities like the Ravenwood Health Clinic in East Palo Alto have launched outreach programs to reach these populations.

Some mothers says she now pays extra attention to the meals she prepares for her daughter.

"To eat various foods, fruits vegetables, a lot of proteins, a little bit of everything," said one mother.

And the leveling in obesity statistics may reflect increased efforts in communities as well.

Next week, the city of East Palo Alto, which doesn't have a supermarket, is launching a farmer's market in the parking lot of a local church.

Besides concentrating on diet, researchers believe public health campaigns encouraging children to exercise may also be having a positive impact on the obesity problem.


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