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With children nationwide soon to start a new semester, many parents will begin stocking up on school supplies and mapping out carpool schedules.
Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is reminding moms and dads that their back-to-school to-do lists also should include an inventory of their children’s health, particularly as it relates to childhood obesity. In fact, the seriousness of this issue was underscored just last month, when the American Medical Association approved a policy stating that obesity should be called a disease and not simply a condition.
While obesity negatively affects people of all ages, the medical impact on children and adolescents – because it can carry over into adulthood – is particularly alarming. “According to the American Heart Association, one in three U.S. kids and teens are now overweight or obese,” says Patricia Buss, M.D., medical and health care services operations officer for Health Net, Inc. “We know that childhood obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously were considered adult health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also reports that children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, so these health issues can last a lifetime.”
Specifically, the CDC lists the immediate health effects of childhood obesity as:
Obese children and teens are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youngsters had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
Youngsters who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social as well as psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
The CDC outlines the following long-term health effects of childhood obesity:
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and osteoarthritis.
Being overweight or obese is associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
As Health Net’s Buss points out, “The key to avoiding the negative health impacts of childhood obesity is for parents to help their kids – from an early stage in their lives – maintain the appropriate weight for their height.” Buss explains it was with this goal in mind that Health Net created its Fit Families for Life –
Be in Charge! Program. This five-week, home-based family intervention program guides participants toward making better food choices and increasing physical activity. Participants receive a workbook, cookbook, and a DVD that provides nutrition information and easy-to-follow exercise routines.
Further reflecting Health Net’s commitment to curbing childhood obesity, Buss explains that members ages 6 through 20 who have a body mass index at or above the 95
th percentile additionally can receive personalized telephonic support from nutrition nurses or registered dietitians who will help them achieve a healthy weight.
Teens nationwide, both Health Net members and non-members, can access T2X. T2X is a health-literacy social website established through a partnership between Health Net, the UCLA School of Public Health, and EPG Technologies that motivates teens to make healthy choices in relation to nutrition, fitness, stress management and substance abuse.