Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Vast majority of Ky. adults see child obesity as serious problem; one-third of Ky. children aged 10 to 17 are obese or overweight

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

This should come as no surprise: More than 90 percent of the state's adults say it's a problem that one in three Kentucky children aged 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.

Results were nearly identical to the last time the question was asked, in 2009.
The Kentucky Health Issues Poll, taken Oct. 24 to Dec. 2, found 56 percent of Kentucky adults saw childhood obesity as a serious problem for the state, and another 35 percent said it was a problem, but not serious. Only 6 percent saw it as no problem at all.

About 34 percent of Kentucky's children between 10 and 17 are overweight or obese, according to the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health. Nationally, that number is about 31 percent. Overall, the rate has remained stable over the past decade. The poll did not give its respondents any information about the problem, said Bonnie Hackbarth of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the survey.

Obesity is calculated through Body Mass Index, essentially a ratio of height to weight. Children are given a "BMI for age," comparing them to other children of the same age and gender. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a child as obese if their BMI for age is equal to or greater than 95 percent of their age-and-gender group. They are classified as overweight if they are at or above the 85th percentile.

"We have to find more ways to help Kentucky's children learn healthy eating and exercise habits early on in life," Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the health foundation, said in a news release. "The older we get, the more difficult retraining our dietary and lifestyle habits and losing excess weight become. And even in the early stages of life, obesity has a damaging effect on physical, social and emotional health."

The CDC says obese children are more likely to be obese adults. Adult obesity comes with a higher risk of developing heart disease, type-2 diabetes and many types of cancers – all conditions that plague our state. About 34 percent of Kentucky adults are considered obese.

Concern about child obesity is greater in area-development districts around Louisville and Lexington, where more than 60 percent see it as a serious issue. In the rest of the state, it ranged from 49 to 53 percent.

The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. Co-sponsored with the Cincinnati foundation Interact for Health, it surveyed a random sample of 1,692 adults throughout Kentucky via landlines and cell phones.

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