LITTLE ROCK, AR– Childhood obesity is a complex problem with no easy solutions. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity in Arkansas and the United States.This trend is increasing at an alarming rate with 15.3 percent of children nationally considered obese according to the American Obesity Association. For minority communities in the United States childhood obesity statistics are particularly alarming. It is a crisis that requires developing solutions at the local level that reflect the unique needs of each community.
The Coalition for a Healthy and Active America (CHAA) is a grassroots organization recently established here in Arkansas. CHAA members believe the most effective way to address childhood obesity is by partnering community leaders, parents, schools and students to craft reasonable and responsible solutions. There is no silver bullet when it comes to keeping our kids fit, but by empowering communities to craft a balanced approach to childhood obesity that includes a renewed commitment to physical fitness and expanded nutrition education we can immediately help put our kids on the right track.
The Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS), a program-based analysis of the US Department of Health and Human Services, shows that young Hispanic children have the greatest prevalence of obesity in the United States. Further, data from the National Longitudal Survey of Youth indicates that the prevalence of overweight has increased by 120 percent in Hispanic children from 1986 to 1998, as white children saw only a 50 percent increase. This represents in Arkansas a 12.5 % rate (up from 11.9%) for Hispanic children, 10.5 % (up from 10.2 %) for African American children and 9.5 % (up from 9.2 %) for White children.
Statistics such as these understandably are of serious concern for Hispanic Americans. Research has demonstrated that obese children too often become obese adults. And obesity in adulthood leads to serious health complications. In fact, obesity is a risk factor in four of the ten leading causes of death in America: coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer.
CHAA’s mission is to promote the critical role increased physical activity and expanded nutrition education play in combating childhood obesity. Given funding cuts in education which have severely limited and in some cases eliminated physical education in school and the increased amount of time our kids are spending in front of television and computer screens, we must work together as a community to arm our children with the tools of a balanced lifestyle. It is crucial that parents and family members encourage our younger generation to engage in daily physical activity, as well as, provide a good example through our own nutritional routines.
CHAA coalitions have already formed in nearly a dozen states across the country to help promote responsible and reasonable solutions to reverse the trends of childhood obesity in every community.