Childhood obesity: one of the most important health challenges of the 21st century

Overweight and obesity have tripled since the 70’s, its association with metabolic, cardiovascular, neoplastic and other diseases has made its prevention and treatment a major public health challenge.

These diseases, which in previous decades were considered exclusive in adults, are now also present in children. In addition to reducing their health, obesity in children can affect their school performance.

In recent years there has been a Increase in obesity in children between 2 to 5 years of age in the United States.

But what can be done to prevent future generations from suffering from these diseases?

Overweight is often confused with obesity.

Obesity is in definition an excess of body fat. Currently, the body mass index (BMI) is used as a tool as a reference to determine excess weight, however it does not consider body fat. So the BMI should only be used as a general indicator.

The BMI is obtained by dividing the weight of an individual by his height in meters squared, it is a low-cost indicator and easy to determine, which makes it a useful tool but not precise in the field of outpatient consultations.

Diagnosis of obesity in children

For an accurate diagnosis of obesity in children, a pediatrician should be consulted.

In some US School Health Programs, BMI is used to screen for overweight and obesity and reports and recommendations are sent to parents.

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However, it is recommended for an accurate obesity diagnosis to go to a Pediatrician.

As a public health practice, it is recommended that weight and height be measured in all “well-child” visits or visits to determine the BMI of all patients from 2 to 20 years of age.

At a statistical level, the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determine that a person is overweight when their BMI is above the 85th percentile but does not exceed the 95th percentile compared to people of the same gender and age. Therefore, those children and young people who are above the 95th percentile are obese.

In order to prevent childhood obesity, it is necessary to understand it, it has been a few years since it has been believed that obesity is caused only by excessive food intake.

Although obesity is the result of an imbalance between the calories that are ingested and those that are consumed, it is currently believed that children who suffer from obesity have risk factors such as a poor diet, lack of physical activity or sedentary lifestyle, among others.

However, these risk factors are largely family-moderated, meaning that if parents have an inadequate diet they can inadvertently lead to the development of obesity in their children.

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Environmental factors such as public policies, access to adequate spaces for exercising, and promoting a healthy style are also believed to play a role in disease prevention.

A comprehensive joint work of the family, health personnel and government institutions through prevention is the best treatment for childhood obesity.

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