Baby fat ranks up there with Kool-Aid mustaches and sticky fingers as one of those undeniable trademarks that distinguishes kids from adults. As the obesity epidemic gains momentum, however, experts are touting that baby fat might be a precursor for adult obesity.
“It’s Not Your Fault That You’re Overweight: A Story of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Accomplishment for Overweight and Obese Kids,” authored by Merilee A. Kern, co-founder and CEO of Healthy Kids’ Catalog, an online catalog company, has won a 2006 Excellent Products of 2006 iParenting Media award. The fictional children’s story helps overweight kids get on a healthy track for the long term. Check out Healthy Kids’ Catalog online at www.healthykidscatalog.com.
“In previous centuries, the major scourges were from acute infectious diseases, today, the impact is from the compilation of chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease,” says Jay Skyler, M.D., professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Psychology, the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine. “The biggest health problem facing the world today is from the combined impact of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
Consider the statistics. Fifteen percent of children ages 6-19 are overweight, that’s approximately 9 million, and another 15 percent are considered at risk of becoming overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The number of overweight children age 12-19 has increased by 50 percent in the last 10 years, says the National Center for Health Statistics. U.S. teens are more overweight than youths in 14 other countries, touts the National Institutes of Health.
The probability of childhood obesity persisting into adulthood is estimated to increase from approximately 20 percent at 4 years of age to 80 percent by adolescence, cites the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Childhood obesity that continues into adulthood could have detrimental effects on health. It is well-documented that obesity is a contributing factor to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma and sleep apnea. The American Obesity Association, Washington, D.C., says that pediatricians and childhood obesity researchers are reporting more frequent cases of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and hypertension that once were considered adult conditions. And the American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that more than 60 percent of overweight children between 5 and 10 years of age are already at risk for cardiovascular disease.
In fact, according to the American Obesity Association, researchers are noting the following health trends:
- Asthma: The prevalence of overweight is reported to be significantly higher in children and adolescents with moderate to severe asthma compared to a peer group.
- Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents has increased dramatically in a short period. The parallel increase of obesity in children and adolescents is reported to be the most significant factor for the rise in diabetes. Obese children and adolescents are reported to be 12.6 times more likely than non-obese to have high fasting blood insulin levels, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In fact, an American Diabetes Association study released in the August edition of Diabetes Care found that overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and high triglycerides were extremely prevalent among youths with type 2 diabetes and somewhat prevalent among those with type 1 diabetes.
- Hypertension: Persistently elevated blood pressure levels have been found to occur about nine times more frequently among obese children and adolescents (ages 5 to 18) than in non-obese.
- Orthopedic Complications: Among growing youths, bone and cartilage in the process of development are not strong enough to bear excess weight. As a result, a variety of orthopedic complications occur. In young children, excess weight can lead to bowing and overgrowth of leg bones. Also, increased weight on the growth plate of the hip can cause pain and limit range of motion. Between 30 to 50 percent of children with this condition are overweight.
- Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea occurs in about 7 percent of children with obesity.
Home health manufacturers are taking note. Already, pediatric friendly versions of many products are becoming available on the market. Consider the influx of child-friendly nebulizers for asthma and back-to-school diabetic kits to help school officials work with children with diabetes. And most recently, ResMed launched the Mirage Kidsta™ nasal mask and the VPAP® III ST-A, the first pediatric system cleared by the FDA for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and respiratory insufficiency in the hospital and home.
“Pediatric specialists are increasingly aware of the prevalence and symptoms of sleep apnea and they recognize the need for suitable therapy options for their pediatric patients,” stated Dr. Rochelle Turetsky, M.D., Gaylord Hospital, in a news release. “As a result, pediatricians have seen an increasing and unmet need for an approved pediatric device. ResMed’s recent FDA clearance of a full therapy system for pediatric use in the hospital and home is excellent news for patients and physicians and will meet a growing need in pediatric practices.”
And home health providers just might see a spike in product requests for obese pediatric clients.