Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guest Blog: Dr. Haney on Childhood Obesity

Kaiser Permanente is the title sponsor of the 2012 Centennial Celebration Event Series and Kaiser Permanente physician Dr. Sean Haney will be sharing his thoughts as an official CMC guest blogger this year about the outdoors, medicine, wellness, and whatever else inspires him.

 We are currently experiencing an epidemic of childhood obesity.   Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years in the US.   In fact in 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents in our country were either overweight or obese.   Obesity in youth can lead to obesity in adulthood and costs a lot of money.  Based on 2006 figures, the cost of obesity to the US health care system in direct and indirect terms has been estimated at $147 billion (Yes, that’s $147 billion).  

There are immediate and long-term negative implications for youth obesity.  The immediate consequences include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes.  The long-term effects of obesity include osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer.   Not only are there physical effects of obesity, there are serious psychological consequences associated with obesity such as poor self-esteem.

Exercise and healthy eating are important ways of combating this epidemic.   There are many ways to positively influence youth behavior as well.  These include school-based exercise programs, interventions from medical providers, products and pricing from the food and beverage industry, media coverage of the topic, and more.

We need to change the direction we are going.  This may mean rethinking school lunch and physical education programs; that is to say putting effort and resources into these areas. How about families (guided by parents) making better food choices and even exercising together? How about bike night?  Or how about taking a stroll after dinner?

As a nation, we rose to the challenge Sputnik presented.  We can’t give up on our kids or our country.  We can’t afford to.

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