Childhood Obesity Affects 1 in 2 Native Youth
The work that we do in Indian country is really important. Our mission requires that we not only provide relief for short-term needs in our communities, but that we also work on sustainable solutions that will eventually lead to lasting solutions for stronger communities. One very serious issue that has our focus right now is childhood obesity.
The issue of childhood obesity has been a growing concern for a few decades. It has gained more public attention in recent years, due in part to Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiatives. September has been declared National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in order to raise awareness about the high prevalence of obesity and resulting medical issues. At NRC, we view childhood obesity as a serious health concern that affects the lives right now of many of the people we serve, as well as the future of their communities.
A recent study by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found these startling statistics:
- 48.9% of American Indian school children are overweight or obese – almost double the rate of white school children.
- Obese children are more likely to suffer from serious, lifelong illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma than their normal weight peers – making the obesity epidemic a major concern.
- Obesity is a common symptom that stems from food insecurity – which affects 1 in 4 American Indians. And in turn, food insecurity is a symptom that stems from poverty.
- With the increase in obesity rates, the number of American Indian teens with diabetes has dramatically increased as well. Between 1994-2004 diabetes cases rose 68% among American Indian youth ages 15-19
A number of factors contribute to the rising obesity rates and related medical problems. For the reservations we serve, a major factor is the lack of affordable, healthy food. Children in our communities frequently struggle with both obesity and malnutrition. Another factor in our service area is the general lack of education that can empower children to make better choices related to nutrition and wellness, with the resources at their disposal.
Later this week, I will share some of the ways that NRC is responding to this serious concern.