I bet you’re thinking to yourself — enough already with the obesity topic! Well, there’s a reason I harp so much about obesity; it’s because, despite all that’s been written about obesity and its consequences, it’s getting worse. Obesity threatens not only our personal health, but the health of our society. The consequences of obesity results in 300,000 premature deaths a year from such chronic diseases as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
While we’ve made great strides in curbing another scourge to society, cigarette smoking, obesity rates continue to grow at an alarming rate. Given current trends, the latest studies predict that half of Americans will be obese by 2030, resulting in $500 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. If we are going to make any headway in preventing this disease, we must target the country’s youngest and increasingly heaviest citizens: children.
Before we can tackle the problem, parents must first acknowledge that obesity is a disease.
A new survey released today by Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City shows that more parents would find it “very important” to seek medical care for a child with diabetes symptoms (81%), asthma (80%) or a learning disability (74%), whereas only 54% of parents feel the same approach is needed for a child who is overweight.
Nearly all parents say they would seek medical attention for a condition that would limit their child’s life expectancy (94%) or impact his or her future health care costs (93%). Obese children have both immediate and future health problems, such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
Other key findings of the survey included: few parents are supportive of extreme interventions for overweight children, including weight loss surgery (5%), medication (16%) or removal from their parents’ custody (6%), and more parents support moderate interventions such as outpatient treatment programs (51%).
Parents are supportive of proposed regulations that:
- Require healthy options in all public places that have vending machines (81%).
- Require that health insurance companies cover obesity treatment (77%).
- Require sidewalks in all neighborhoods (76%).
- Strengthen regulations on food marketing to kids (73%).
- Control locations of fast food restaurants (for example, limiting placement near schools) (60%).
- Tax foods such as potato chips and sweets (39%).
- Full results of the survey can be found here or on the Children’s Mercy website.
Parents clearly recognize that there is an issue and that they can have an impact on combating obesity. Now is time for parents to set a healthy example and work with both physicians and schools to encourage a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity, healthy habits and nutritious food. Our country is at the crossroads of a major healthcare crisis that is affecting the quality of life for Americans and, increasingly, our economy. Investing healthcare dollars into programs that prevent and better manage chronic diseases have been shown to improve lives and lower costs. Let’s get busy!