I remember a time when my siblings and I would play outside until it became too dark to see, at which point we’d run home for a delicious and well-balanced family dinner. Today, it feels like video games are replacing outdoor playtime, and quick-ready or fast-food meals are replacing the well-balanced family dinner. Even families who are able to put their kids through intense dance programs or on competitive sports leagues still seem to feed their children unhealthy foods that don’t give their growing bodies any of the nutrients they so badly need.
This lifestyle shift towards unhealthy habits is directly related to the increase in childhood obesity rates in recent years. In 1980, roughly 7% of children ages 6-11 were considered obese – this number has more than doubled to be roughly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of obese adolescents aged 12-19 years has increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same time period. In total, more than 1 in 3 children and adolescents in the US are overweight or obese.
If this doesn’t strike you as a major epidemic plaguing our nation, it should. Especially when you consider the economic costs that are associated with childhood obesity, and the fact that unhealthy habits learned at a young age will continue into adulthood, ultimately growing the cycle through future generations.
New studies are concluding that, over a lifetime, the medical costs associated with childhood obesity total around $19,000 per child compared to children of a normal weight, and around $12,900 per person for children of a normal weight who then become overweight or obese in adulthood. That’s more than the average cost of one year of college tuition, fees, books, room and board at a public four-year institution – which according to the College Board, is $16,930.
This $19,000 figure doesn’t take into account any of the indirect costs associate with childhood obesity, such as absenteeism and lost productivity into adulthood. According to Eric Finkelstein, a health economist who worked on this study, “in the case of childhood obesity, the real costs do not occur until decades later when these kids get adult health problems at a greater rate.”
Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers; and the growing obesity rate is leading to a growing number of children and adults being diagnosed with these diseases. We have many programs out there educating kids on the dangers of drugs and tobacco, we remind our kids to brush their teeth and we help them do well in school. We do what we can to set our future generations up for success, and that needs to be reflected in our efforts to help kids stay at a healthy weight and learn healthy habits.
It’s time to take the necessary steps to become a positive, healthy lifestyle role model for our youth. It’s time to start learning and promoting nutritious eating, well-balanced meals, and active playtime. We need to let our youth know that we care about their lives, and that it’s time to invest in the health and wellness of our future generations.
For this reason, we are offering a discounted rate for youth to participate in the SlimGenics STEP™ Program! Call your SlimGenics Weight Loss Center to learn more about these options that will help your family get healthy and stay healthy.
Help us raise awareness for this growing childhood obesity epidemic by using the hashtag #NObesity. Together, we can make a healthy difference for our future generations!