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Fat American Children: Many Causes, a Lifetime of Effects

Eating habits, physical activity, access to parks, ethnicity, poverty and TV watching all play a role in the epidemic, as do many other factors.

March 08, 2010|Jill U. Adams

One of the original titles of our paper was "Beyond Socioeconomic Status." It's a key point because, even though it is true that you're more likely to be overweight or obese if you're in one of those lower socioeconomic groups, the biggest proportion of children who are overweight or obese in the country are not in one of those so-called disadvantaged groups. Most of them have private insurance, most of them have access to parks and recreation centers and most of them are not poor.

How can public health officials and policymakers use your findings to address the problem?

All this data is available for each state in the U.S. through the national Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health at http://www.childhealthdata.org. My team runs this, and it's supported by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

For example in California, 30.5% of children are overweight or obese — very close to the national average of 31.6%. By race, 39.9% of Hispanic kids are overweight or obese, as are 34.4% of black kids and 18.4% of white kids.

Each state should be looking at what's going on: How big is the problem? With whom? Does it vary, and why? How might public health, health insurance and school programs play a role? What about parks and recreation centers and transportation and community safety? All of it matters, and all of it works together.

health@latimes.com

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