Childhood Obesity: Defining the Problem
Cultural Changes: Busier But Less Active
The past 50 years have seen dramatic changes in the way children play, eat meals, and socialize. Look at the following chart and think about how your family life has changed and about how the time and opportunities for children to have fun physical activity have been reduced. Then see Steps Toward Solutions for ideas for healthier lifestyle choices for your children and yourself.
Note: If you want to do this activity as a group, show the opening segment from the program as a discussion starter.
Kentucky Statistics on Obesity Among Youth and Children
Defining Overweight: Calculating Your Body Mass Index
The first challenge in addressing overweight and obesity lies in adopting a common public health measure of these conditions. An expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health in 1998 adopted body mass index (BMI) for defining overweight and obesity. BMI is a practical measure that requires only two things: accurate measures of an individual’s weight and height (Figure 1). BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height, calculated as weight in pounds divided by the square of the height in inches, multiplied by 703. Alternatively, BMI can be calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters.
Studies have shown that BMI is significantly correlated with total body fat content for most individuals. BMI has some limitations: It can overestimate body fat in persons who are very muscular, and it can underestimate body fat in persons who have lost muscle mass, such as many elderly. But many organizations, including more than 50 scientific and medical organizations that have endorsed the NIH Clinical Guidelines, support the use of a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater to identify obesity in adults and a BMI between 25 kg/m2 and 29.9 kg/m2 to identify overweight in adults. These definitions are based on evidence that suggests health risks are greater for people at or above a BMI of 25 kg/m2 compared to those at a BMI below that level. The risk of death, although modest until a BMI of 30 kg/m2 is reached, increases with an increasing BMI.
For more information about BMI, see the Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity resource page.
Understanding Your Child’s Body Mass Index-for-Age
In children and adolescents, overweight has been defined as a sex- and age-specific BMI at or above the 95th percentile, based on revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts (Figures 2 and 3). Neither a separate definition for obesity nor a definition for overweight based on health outcomes or risk factors is defined for children and adolescents.
Figure 2: Body Mass Index-for-Age Percentiles:
Figure 3: Body Mass Index-for-Age Percentiles:
Source: Developed by the National Center for Health Statistics in collaboration with the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2000)
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