When a child is well above the normal or healthy weight for his or her age and height, he or she is considered obese. The causes of excess weight gain in young people are similar to those in adults, including factors such as a person’s behavior and genetics. A recent study found these startling statistics about childhood obesity:
- 49 percent of American Indian school children are overweight or obese, almost double the rate of white school children.
- Obese children are more likely to suffer from serious, lifelong illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma than their normal weight peers, making the obesity epidemic a major concern.
- Obesity is a common symptom that stems from food insecurity, which affects one in four American Indians. And in turn, food insecurity stems from poverty.
- With the increase in obesity rates, the number of American Indian teens with diabetes has dramatically increased as well. Between 1994–2004, diabetes cases rose 68 percent among American Indian youth ages 15–19.
What can you do to prevent and control this serious health issue? There are many ways to help maintain a healthy weight in children and adulthood, including being active and eating a balanced diet:
- Raise an active child. Make active play fun for the whole family. Focus on fun, not performance. Set limits on TV and computer times. Be active yourself; active parents tend to have active children.
- As children grow, they may be ready for new activities: Age 2: run, walk, gallop, jump and swim. Age 3: hop, climb, ride a bike, throw, bounce, and kickball. Age 4: skip, swim, obstacle courses.
- Active play ideas. Indoor play: Act out a story, dance, walk inside a mall, card games, follow the leader, duck-duck-goose. Outdoor play: Family walks, play catch, take a hike, kickball, bike riding.