Children at risk for obesity

Tom Morris

Current research indicates that over 20 percent of all children in the United States have two or more risk factors for coronary artery disease. Two or more risk factors place a child at a “moderate” risk level for future coronary artery disease. One of the most common risk factors in children is obesity. Obesity can be defined as that level of body fat that significantly increases an individual’s risk for not only cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), but high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type II diabetes, colon-rectal cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, and low back pain. It is estimated that 15 percent of all children in this country are obese, while 33 percent are overweight. The prevalence of obesity and overweight children is so big (no pun intended) that the US military has indicated that national security is threatened since these young people would not be able to stand the eventual rigors of military service. Of young adults ages 17 to 24, 27 percent are “too fat” to join the military.

This rise in childhood obesity has recently been documented in the children living in Tucumcari. Body Mass Index (BMI) data—the most commonly used measure of obesity in the world—was collected for Tucumcari Elementary School (TES) students, Pre-K to 5th Grade, during the fall 2009 school year. The results of this study are scary. Nationwide, 33 percent of elementary-aged school children are considered overweight. The data calculated by the Quay County Maternal, Child & Community Health Council indicated that 41% of TES students are overweight. Across the country, 15 percent of elementary-aged school children are labeled as obese, while 26 percent of TES students fall into the obese category.

The significantly higher prevalence of overweight and obese children in Tucumcari, as compared to the national averages, should be our communities “wake-up call” to this very serious problem. Tucumcari parents, the school district and civic leaders must begin to consider definitive ways to address this potentially devastating problem. They need to promote increasing the time spent participating in physical education at the public school, increasing the opportunity for safe and effective physical activity in the community and parents/caregivers taking the lead with their children by becoming healthy role models and literally walking the walk and involving both their children and themselves in a more physically active lifestyle. The time is now…”Get Moving Tucumcari!”.