If trends around childhood obesity stay on their current course, for the first time in US history we may see life expectancy start to fall. There are some scary statistics on the topic:
- More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
- Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States, topping drug abuse and smoking.
- More than 30% of children eat fast food on any given day.
- Overweight children miss four times as many school days as children of a healthy weight.
- Of overweight high school students, 58% of boys and 63% of girls report daily teasing, bullying, or rejection because of their size. Being the target of this kind of behavior can lead to school delinquency, self-harm, depression, and anxiety disorders.
- Many parents with overweight or obese children underestimate their child's excess weight.
The head of the CDC, Tom Frieden, has said that combating childhood obesity is one of his top priorities. As awareness of the problem has grown, we’re seeing signs that public and private efforts to improve children’s nutrition and promote physical activity are having an effect. Nationwide, there’s been a decline in obesity among very young children (ages 2-5), and some cities, like New York and Philadelphia, and even some states, like Mississippi and California, have reported improvements in obesity rates among schoolchildren in various grades.
Hoping to be part of the solution, Mercer recently formed an alliance with Kurbo Health, a Silicon Valley start-up that has created a compelling offering combining an intelligent mobile food and activity app, real-time feedback and one-on-one support from coaches. I’m excited by their ability to engage children in their health -- 88% reduce their BMI -- and even more intrigued by their ability to engage parents to lose weight as well -- 55% of parents reduce their own BMI! It’s a neat example of a positive side effect that goes beyond the initial focus of a solution.
If you’ve been less than satisfied with efforts to promote weight loss among your workers, maybe shifting the focus to improving the health of the whole family is something to consider. Meanwhile, here are a couple of interesting tidbits I turned up in my research:
- Kids who have a younger brother or sister before preschool have a lower risk of becoming obese
- Peanut butter may help prevent childhood obesity, while fish may cause it.
Ok, maybe that last one needs more research!