A Social Ecological Approach to Rising Levels of Overweight and Obesity in Children and Adolescents in the United States

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Childhood onset overweight and obesity and its’ associated health consequences are quickly becoming major significant public health issues facing America today. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define overweight as a body mass index (BMI) between the 85th and 95th percentile while obese is defined as BMI above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex . The prevalence of overweight children, defined based on 2009 CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics data, has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2006, the incidence of overweight among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% to 17.0% while overweight levels for adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 17.6% . …show more content…
Research has shown an ethnic and racial disparity in the frequency of childhood overweight and obesity. Specifically, minority children face a disproportionately higher chance of obesity; Taveras, Gillman, Kleinman, Rich-Edwards, and Rifas-Shiman agree: “…many risk factors for child obesity are more prevalent among black and Hispanic children than among white children (p. 693). ” They go on to write that additional variables affecting those two minority groups include belonging to a lower socioeconomic class, sleeping less than their white counterparts, and a greater likelihood of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and fast food after age two .
In one of few studies to include Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino youth in addition to blacks and whites in examining risk factors associated with overweight, Haas et al. research showed black or Latino children aged 6-11 years of age having a greater likelihood of being overweight compared with their white counterparts . In addition, Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino adolescents aged 12-17 years old were significantly more likely than Whites to be overweight. Interestingly, this study compared factors affecting children 6-11 years old with adolescents 12-17 years of age and found that overweight children were more closely linked to family circumstances, such as parental involvement, while overweight in adolescents can

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