Overweight Black Children: How Do We Handle This Crisis?

The percentage of black children who are overweight has sky-rocketed since the 1970s. The Child Trends DataBank website has prepared an alarming analysis of this national health risk. Consider these numbers:

        Percent of Black Children Who Are Overweight

 

1976-80

1988-94

1999-2002

2003-04

CHILDREN AGES 6-11

  
Black boys

6.8

12.3

17.0

17.5

  
Black girls

11.2

17.0

22.8

26.5

CHILDREN AGES 12-19

  
Black boys

6.1

10.7

18.7

18.5

  
Black girls

10.7

16.3

23.6

25.4


Source: From Child Trends DataBank, compiled from numerous references.

Since the mid-1970s, the number of overweight black boys over the age of six has tripled. And today, one out of four black girls over the age of six is overweight. The ChildTrends Data Bank describes the consequences:

Children who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, orthopedic abnormalities, gout, arthritis, and skin problems. Childhood obesity has been linked to the premature onset of puberty. In addition, being overweight can negatively affect children’s social and psychological development. A recent study found bullying and obesity in children to be positively correlated, with physical activity decreasing as victimization increased.

The health threats posed by being an overweight child can be long lasting. Children and adolescents who are overweight are at risk for becoming overweight adults. Overweight adults face many problems due to their weight, such as decreased productivity, social stigmatization, high health care costs, and premature death. In addition, overweight adults are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, elevated blood pressure, stroke, respiratory problems, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and some types of cancer.

Furthermore, studies suggest that belly fat is more dangerous than general body weight. The abdominal and visceral fat (found surrounding the internal organs) has been more closely linked with diseases than general body fat. In addition, measuring waist circumference may be a better predictor of a person being unhealthily overweight than body mass index.

Put simply: the overweight black children of today will be the sick, incapacitated, and shorter-lived black adults of the future.

What sparked this crisis? There seems to be a consensus on the following causes:
• Less physical/manual activity (such as walking, sports, housework) by today’s children.
• The increased availability of low cost, high calorie foods.
• The introduction of high fructose corn syrup into the food supply.
• Effective marketing of sweet and fatty foods to youngsters.
• Weak efforts to market healthy eating habits.

This is a crisis that demands immediate attention from us all. So the first step is to identify this as an issue to policy makers and the public.

And the obvious second step is: we adults have got to take control of our children’s eating habits. If we as parents, family, and friends can’t get a handle on this, ultimately, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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