The most recent statistics published by the S.C. Department of Health and Environment Control yield alarming numbers concerning the incidence of obesity in South Carolina children.
The stats show that about a third of high school students are overweight or obese.
That’s a big problem – and one that often grows.
Obesity in childhood increases the risk of children developing insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure, asthma, depression and poor self-esteem. Obesity in adolescence is also strongly associated with children reaching a lower educational level than expected and earning lower incomes as adults.
Unfortunately, 70 percent of obese high school students will also be obese or overweight as adults.
Based on the ballooning obesity rates in children, the American Heart Association has predicted that this is the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Obesity rates vary according to race and gender. The disease is more common in African American teenagers than white teenagers (39 percent compared to 25 percent), and more prevalent in males than females.
Research indicates that the cause of obesity in children is rarely due to a medical problem but more often from a combination of genetics, diet and activity level. The DHEC study reveals that 85 percent of South Carolina high school students did not eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and/or vegetables in the week prior to the survey.
At the same time, more than half of those students reported not getting the recommended physical activity of 60 minutes a day, five times a week.
This information gives us an opportunity to plan ways to impact the obesity epidemic in South Carolina. Communities and organizations will need to work together to help with education but also to ensure affordable healthy foods and safe places to exercise.
Locally, the Charleston County Medical Society is spearheading efforts to develop wellness programs in schools, and amazing changes are taking place. Last year, 72 schools participated and each received $1,000 to use toward wellness initiatives such as fit clubs, daily health tips, gardens and eliminating sugary snacks.
As your children get back into the swing of things at school, be mindful of what they’re eating. Kidseatright.org has some great ideas and tips). Also, be sure they get enough exercise, and remember children learn best by example. Let’s work toward all being more active as a family.
By Dr. Valerie Scott, a RSF Physician Partner with Mt. Pleasant Family Practice