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The Need

Pediatric (Childhood) obesity is a critical concern in the United States. Factors such as the elimination of physical education in schools, safety concerns in modern society and the high cost of joining many organized sports programs lead to low levels of physical activity in adolescents. In Kingstree, there is a death of afterschool programs which provide either academic or physical activities.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control conducted a survey to assess the obesity profile of citizens in South Carolina. It found that only 17.1% of adolescents achieved the recommended level of daily physical activity. 21% hadn’t achieved the recommended level of daily physical activity on any day during the 7 days preceding the survey and 39.7% watched television for 3 or more hours on an average school day.

Exacerbated by high levels of unhealthy dietary behaviors, the state of health in American children is dire. High levels of obesity are leading to high levels of life-altering illnesses; even premature death. Furthermore, statistics show that obesity rates are significantly higher in lower economic communities.

Childhood Obesity

  • More than 9 million adolescents (children and teens 6 to 19 years old) are affected by excess weight.
  • Children who are affected by obesity are 70 percent more likely to continue being affected by it into adulthood.
  • Children affected by childhood obesity at a young age are predisposed to severe obesity in adulthood.
  • Environmental factors, such as a lack of physical activity and technological advances have led to a more sedentary lifestyle among Americans.
  • Today, children affected by obesity are much more likely than ever to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians have been experiencing the highest rates of increase in childhood obesity. On average, 25 percent of children in these ethnic groups are affected by obesity.
  • The most frequent sign of discrimination among children affected by obesity is social and societal acceptance. This negative discrimination can lead to poor self-esteem and depression.
  • More than 40 percent of children watch 2 or more hours of television each day.

In South Carolina

  • 10 to 17-year-olds combined overweight and obesity rate is 32.9 percent
  • SC ranks 17th among the states in 2016 in the age group
  • Obesity- related health issues in adults (2016)
    • 13 percent of adults in South Carolina have diabetes
    • South Carolina ranks 6th among states’ rates of individuals with diabetes
    • Cases of diabetes in 2010 - 429,273; projected to increase to 615,599 at the current pace
    • 37.8 percent of adults in South Carolina have hypertension
    • South Carolina ranks 8th among the states with adults diagnosed with hypertension
    • Cases of hypertension in 2010; projected to increase to 1,216,272 at current pace

Obesity and Academic Outcomes
The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity produced a study that shows overweight and obese status in children can be associated with undesirable academic outcomes. Disciplinary problems, absenteeism, poor grades, and low levels of school engagement are the most common. The study also shows that obesity is not the only factor among these students that likely contributes to poor academic performance, but, rather more of an indicator of behaviors common among overweight children. These behaviors had the highest impact on academic outcomes. Chief among them is poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity. The most effective approach to intervention is, therefore, to address health care available to these students and to target the behaviors that drive obesity. This approach can improve adolescent health on an individual basis, as well as directly improve educational outcomes. According to the study, “This kind of structural approach to intervention is crucial to not only improving outcomes in these children, but also to preventing the long-term costs associated with childhood obesity and the further perpetuation of the cycle of low socioeconomic status and poor health/educational outcomes”.

Obese Children Become Obese Adults - The Impact on Society
The cost of obesity in the United States in 2000 was more than $117 billion. In 2002, medical costs attributed to weight and obesity reached an incredible $92.6 billion. Many insurance companies do not cover clinical nor non-clinical weight-loss programs. Treating an individual affected by obesity cost $1,244 more in 2002 than treating a healthy-weight person did. In 2003, Americans spent about $75 billion in weight-related medical bills. The cost grows annually.
In the United States, more than two-thirds of adults are overweight and obese. The overweight and obese condition of the American population has become more pervasive over the past twenty years. So much so, that it has become a national security issue; both from an economic stand point and from the perspective of military preparedness:

  • Economic – In addition to increasing health care problems and the costs associated with treatment, pervasive obesity also drains work force productivity to the point where our labor costs have reached uncompetitive levels.
  • Military Preparedness – Overweight American soldiers are unable to perform many of the normal activities and functions required of soldiers. Already, the Army has extended basic training from six weeks to ten weeks in order to give new soldiers more time to increase fitness and learn fundamental skills.

Obesity is adversely affecting the welfare and economic outcomes of citizens and the national security of the United States.