Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obesity Declines

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Obesity Declines

Article excerpt

A SLIVER of light has finally escaped from the usually dark data on America's weight: Obesity among low-income preschoolers in New Jersey has declined slightly.

The drop is about 1 percent from 2008 to 2011. Hardly a showstopper, but a tantalizing indication that with the right approach and with full-scale commitment on all sides, we may just be able to turn back the dangerous tide of childhood obesity.

New Jersey was joined by four other states with similar numbers, including Florida and Georgia. In all, 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands showed a statistically significant decrease. But 20 states and Puerto Rico stayed the same and three states actually increased their population of obese 2 to 4 year olds.

That's what we're talking about here. Children only 2 years old and no older than 4 who already tip the scale to obese - meaning their body mass index, a calculation of weight and height, measures in the 95th percentile or above. In New Jersey in 2011, more than 16 percent of the low-income preschool population fell into that worrisome category.

Why worrisome? Because these children are being set up for a needlessly difficult and dangerous life. Overweight and obese preschoolers are five times as likely to become overweight and obese adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When they get older, but even before they grow up, overweight or obese children are at an increased risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and mental health problems. An obese teenager has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.

When kids get sick, they miss school. Obese children can get sicker more often than their average-weight peers. That means their parents will likely miss even more work to take care of them than other parents. When kids miss school their grades often suffer, which in turn makes it harder to get into college or technical school. If they weigh too much by the time they graduate from high school, a career in the military will be closed to them. …

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