Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Battling Childhood Obesity in Hispanics, Still

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Battling Childhood Obesity in Hispanics, Still

Article excerpt

In June of2005, Hispanic Outlook reported on the health of the children living in Rio Grande City, a border town in Starr County, Texas, one of the poorest counties in the U.S. Most of the children living there were Mexican American, and at the time, their rates of obesity were among some of the highest in the nation.

Unfortunately, little has changed in the past 11 years for the children of Starr County and for Hispanic children in general, according to Nancy F. Butte, Ph.D, professor of pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. "In the U.S. we do see higher rates of childhood obesity amongst the lower socio-economic groups, and that tends to be a predominance of Hispanic and African American children and also Native Americans," Butte said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, from 2009-2010 Mexican American children were 1.6 times more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic White Children. In 2013, the CDC looked at children and adolescents ages six-11 years of age. It found that the percentage that were overweight among Mexican American girls was 22.4 as compared to 14 for non-Hispanic White girls. The percentage for Mexican American boys was 24.3 as compared to 18.6 for non-Hispanic white males.

Let's Move, the initiative launched by Michelle Obama, indicates that childhood obesity in the Hispanic population is growing faster than all other population segments with nearly two in five Hispanic children ages two-19 being overweight or obese. And the National Council of LaRaza says that Hispanic children are more likely to experience obesity than other children. Obese children are more likely to struggle with weight gain throughout adulthood and could have poorer health outcomes. Childhood obesity can contribute to higher risks for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma. To exacerbate the situation, the treatment of childhood obesity is not a reimbursable healthcare cost. "You can't refer a child just for childhood obesity. That is an ongoing issue and fight," Butte said.

Stemming the Tide

Butte has spent a significant portion of her career trying to prevent, or at least curtail, childhood obesity. Although she has not seen the results she would like, she's seen steps in the right direction. "The good news in all of this is that we think that childhood obesity has plateaued in the past decade. Although we'd like to see it going south a lot faster, at least a plateau is some degree of success," Butte said. In fact, there is some evidence that obesity is declining among preschoolers.

Another step in the right direction is an increase in funding for obesity researcher. More groups than ever are studying the issue. In 2011, Butte and researchers from San Diego State University and the Massachusetts State Department of Public Health received funding from the CDC to perform obesity intervention on children ages two-12 in underserved areas. The Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration Project (CORD) intervened in the diets of children in rural and urban communities in Massachusetts and in border towns in Texas and San Diego from 2011 to 2015. Although the intervention was not restricted by ethnicity, 85 percent of participants were Hispanic. Butte submitted the results in April and will make them public later this year. …

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