SALT LAKE CITY — According to the CDC, obesity among children and adolescents has nearly tripled since 1980, and the rates are even higher in black and Hispanic children. Among low-income families, 1 in 7 preschoolers are obese.
Though diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure usually aren't seen until adulthood, children with obesity often experience these problems. Besides the physical ramifications of obesity, children are often stigmatized and bullied and suffer higher rates of depression and low self-esteem.
"Obesity is a growing public health problem among Utah's young children and adolescents," said Amber Baker, DNP, NP-C at Bariatric Medicine Institute of Utah.
Baker has helped at risk patients ages 5 through 17 achieve results with a program designed to implement healthy living by setting realistic goals and encouraging family support.
She also helps to determine if severely obese adolescents may be candidates for bariatric surgery if they have not had success with any other means of weight loss. This surgical procedure entails altering parts of the stomach or intestines, and is just one part of a series of lifelong lifestyle changes.
Keeping families engaged in the process of choosing health lifestyles can be a challenge. There are many elements that contribute to weight gain in children. Overconsumption of food, increased amounts of computer and TV time, lack of physical education in schools, and poor nutrition are all contributors to childhood obesity.
Families are trying to live healthier lifestyles, but it's difficult, and children are busier than ever. A nationally recognized obesity prevention program, Let's Go!, developed the 5-2-1-0 guideline that can help even busy families set small, obtainable goals.
• 5: Eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables every day.
• 2: Cut TV and computer time to 2 hours or less every day.
• 1: Participate in at least 1 hour of moderate physical activity every day or 20 minutes of vigorous activity at least 3 times a week.
• 0: For almost 0 sugar-sweetened drinks every day, restrict soda pop, sports drinks, and fruit drinks. Instead, drink water and 3-4 servings a day of skim or 1% milk.
Obesity is a chronic disease that needs to be managed long term. At BMI, Dr. Baker uses evidence-based practices to treat children and their families.
Studies have shown that among Utah health care providers, clinician weight loss counseling has a positive influence on patient understanding. The most successful interventions include a combination of diet counseling, physical activity recommendations, and behavioral counseling.
Again, for some adolescents, surgical procedures can be another crucial element to achieving significant weight loss.
If the weight gain trajectory can be halted or slowed before the age of 12, there is a greater chance that the trend of obesity can be managed to prevent adult obesity. Surgical procedures can also be considered, but physicians stress that they are not to be taken lightly.
To learn more about childhood obesity and preventive methods visit bmiut.com.