Child obesity is one of the most pressing health issues plaguing American society. Since 1980, child obesity rates have more than tripled, with 31.8% of children aged two to 19 overweight or obese.
There are a number of reasons why child obesity is a problem that shouldn’t be ignored. Childhood obesity is linked to reduced life expectancy, more missed school time, a higher risk for heart disease and a number of other problems.
Seeing these statistics, it’s only natural to wonder why more parents of obese and overweight children don’t take decisive action to encourage healthy habits and lifestyles for their kids.
The answer may be that most parents don’t realize their children have a weight problem — in a recent study, a shocking 94.9% of parents of overweight children believed their kids’ size was “just right” — even as their weight gain became more apparent.
According to the Washington Post, this phenomena is fairly recent — compared to a similar study two decades earlier, a child’s chances at “being appropriately perceived by the parents declined by 30%.”
“We have changed our perceptions of what our weight ideals are,” said Dustin T. Duncan, an assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, who led the research. “If every other child is obese or overweight, you would think your child (is normal as well.)”
The study, published in the journal Childhood Obesity, tracked about 7,000 children aged two to five years and surveyed their parents over the course of five years. Duncan focused on this young age group because this is the time when many children’s unhealthy eating habits take shape.
Not surprisingly, the primary cause behind child obesity is lack of exercise. The American Heart Association has stated that the average child should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity on a daily basis for optimal health. However, studies have found that one in four children doesn’t get any physical activity during his or her free time.
The study contains a number of key lessons about the consequences of childhood obesity, however unpleasant they may be. If anything, it’s a clear indicator that parents and pediatricians alike can no longer ignore the problem of childhood obesity.