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.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

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    • Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      I think it is a bit of both.When I was at school, a miimunm of 2 hours PE was incorporated into the curriculum, even if you are doing your GCSEs, and PE was not a subject you picked as an option, you had to do 2 x 1.5 hour sessions a week. When my younger cousin was doing her GCSEs 2 years ago, it was an optional thing, and she spent that time sitting on her bum at home. It doesn’t help either when the school cooks do not cook as much anymore, merely reheat stuff.My mother raised my brother and myself on her own and on a meagre income, she often took either one of us with her, on Saturday, to Walthamstow Market (it was a half hour walk from my crummy council estate). We took an interest in the fruit and veg the guys were putting into the paper bags, and when it came to the supermarket, my bro and I had a friendly competition to find the cheapest but healthiest *item which was going to be for dinner that night* I think that was half the reason she allowed us to tag along ;o) but, she did not allow my brother or me to dictate our dinners (when we had them), we only had one choice and it was either on our plate, or we go hungry. She cannot understand why one of my aunts would cook a different meal for each of her children, and then something else for herself she is the mother, she should decide on dinner not the kids (who would be more than happy to live off of burger and chips, or pizza 365 days a year). The problem at home, is that most parents dare not leave their kiddies out of their sight to go outside in the (somewhat) fresh air and play, as they are told that a paedophile is on every corner and will snatch them away, and that is only when play areas or dirt tracks are not being sold on for redevelopment (it was heartbreaking going through my old council estate to see that the play area I spent a lot of my school holidays as a child has been turned into a . car park!)We are living in a time when doctors are seeing children with Rickets again, this is a disease which has hardly been seen in the UK for nearly 80 years! Both have a part to play, people must be very naive (or extremely stupid) not to make a link between an increasing sedentary childhood, increasing consumption in what I can only call crap , and lack of focus on physical education as a child, and their expanding waistlines!

  2. Posted September 20, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

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    • Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      The number of overweight children and adolescents in America has nearly doubled in the last two decades, due in part to the overwhelming amount of advertising aimed at young people. Children between the ages of eight and twelve are exposed to more advertising now than ever before more than 40,000 advertisements a year. More than 75% of all advertising directed towards kids and teens promotes unhealthy and sugary foods. Americans have just recently begun to take notice of the problem, and now think that the government should respond more effectively to the increasing problem of childhood and adolescent obesity. Studies have shown that banning this kind of advertising could reduce the childhood obesity rate by 18%, but the government is concerned about issues of censorship.Companies such as Disney and Sesame Workshop and even some food companies themselves are picking up where the government’s initiatives leave off. Not only are they promoting exercise as a way to avoid obesity, but they are also encouraging kids and teens to eat healthier foods, and educating parents on the link between food advertising and childhood obesity.DEAR STUDENT:This passage is really three paragraphs, because of the three different topics you cover. I made a few changes in wording in an otherwise fine piece of writing.You’re right about the ending, but not exactly because you need to say more. The problem is that the passage trickles out into a weak and rather dull ending. It doesn’t really end so much as just run out of steam and stop. I think you should try to find something strong to say at the end maybe what is termed the call to action in essays that are meant to persuade? Maybe you have a good quote about what will happen in the future if this goes on? Or maybe just a restatement of your thesis in different words: No one solution will provide a complete remedy for the growing problem of obesity in American young people. But government control over ads for unhealthful products aimed at children will be a step in the right direction.

  3. Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I agree, that’s too big of a change. There’s a lot of coprorations who would fight hard against that idea. That’s a lot of money, jobs that would be lost, and legal crap to deal with. Not that it wouldn’t be worth it to have great tasting, healthy food! What also should be done is reaching out to the parents who shove crap down their kids mouth. Just, taking it away won’t do much for someone eats unhealthy. The parents have to want this for their kids. I’ve seen them on tv shows crying, cause their kid is obsese and eats junk. Stop buying it for them. So what if they throw a fit, you’re the parent! Would you give them a bit of crack if they asked for that too? When I worked at Mcdonald’s an overweight mother came by every single day with her overweight child. Probably no more than 12, she practically had no neck. They ordered everything extra, extra bacon, extra sauce. I felt so awful handing her those sandwiches. Everyone there was pretty sure her daughter will die at a young age. I have a family member that would rather feed her kid hot dogs and pizza, than vegetables or cooking a decent meal. Laziness, ignorance, and child abuse is why child obesity is so bad.If people didn’t eat at fast food places or buy junk food the companies wouldn’t make money and shut down. I don’t buy that blaming it on the companies crap. People make their own choices what to eat. It tastes good, that’s why they want to eat it. No self control. I hate having to go to the ice cream isle and search for normal ice cream. They have half fat ice cream, yet I’ve seen people buy 2 tubs of it.

  4. Posted October 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I just wanted to say thanks for providing the informative post. I feel like there are a number of issues that are facing the youth of this nation. Proper nutrition and a lack of daily physical activity are all factoring into the childhood obesity epidemic. As things continue, the cost of childhood obesity could start to really weigh down on the government. Just look at a recent study from Canada on the costs of childhood obesity.

  5. Bean
    Posted November 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Child obesity one of the growing issues came to existence now a days, basically child obesity occurs due to several reasons but the most common factor is unhealthy diet relation.

    Many developing countries are also suffers from this worst issues it bring also a varieties of diseases such as diabetic, cardiovascular disease, and asthma as mentioned in the above post, I must say that to take over these concepts we must spread the awareness of preventing child obesity through healthy diet and physical workout these two factors are more common for stop child obesity.

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  6. Posted December 3, 2012 at 4:49 am | Permalink

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  7. Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this information. Childhood obesity is certainly a serious issue now a days, but I believe that there are a number of underlying reasons for this. I recently read another interesting article which may help to further explain the alarming rise in obesity and diabetes rates. Now, there have been a number of studies on sleep conducted in recent years. Researchers are finding that we are getting much less sleep now than we used to, and the quality of our sleep has gone down to. Well a separate study conducted not long ago found that disrupted sleep patterns can slow down a person’s metabolism and lead to other complications. This could be an issue that is facing kids who aren’t getting the sleep they need.

  8. Posted January 14, 2013 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is very nice one and gives in-depth information. Thanks for this nice article.

  9. Posted February 5, 2013 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    This has been a pretty good time to discuss the issue that is the ever expanding waist lines of America’s youth. Honestly, one of the things that shock me the most is that there are now three times as many obese children and adolescents as there was in 1980! Some changes need to be made, and it starts with better awareness of our daily habits.

  10. Posted June 15, 2013 at 3:15 am | Permalink

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  12. Holly
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    There are many studies and statistics that show there is a high prevalence of childhood obesity among American Indians than any other ethnic groups in the United States. The numbers are only increasing which means there is an urgent need for prevention and intervention programs that is detailed to American Indian population. There is not a “one-size-fit all” solution when implementing a prevention program. The risk factors for childhood obesity among American Indians are different than any other ethnic groups; therefore, it is important to bring culture and traditional values into these prevention programs for them to be a success. There have been several pilot studies conducted on the reservation to implement a prevention program, but all of them did not significantly reduce BMI percentile and percent body fat. American Indian parents have a different perspective on health and usually it’s coming from a cultural perspective. Traditional culture must be part of the solution in creating a successful prevention program on the reservation to fight this epidemic.

    • Posted December 7, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Holly, excellent point and absolutely critical to the equation. The same is true in other healthcare issues affecting Native Americans, as well as education. That’s why all our support is done through partnerships with tribal programs on the reservations.

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