We’ve examined the American epidemic of obesity, its impact on children’s health, and the implications on future adult health previously on The PediaBlog. The most recent data reveals that nearly 32% of the pediatric population is overweight or obese. In Hispanic children, the rate is over 39%. Researcher Eduardo J. Sanchez looked at three public health policies — after school physical activity programs, an excise tax on sodas and sugary beverages, and a ban on child-directed fast food TV advertising — to see which was the most effective in reducing pediatric obesity:
Among the three policies we analyzed, the best option to reduce obesity among adolescents ages 13 to 18 — by 2.4 percent — is an excise tax on sodas and sugary beverages. The tax would have the added bonus of generating revenue for obesity prevention programs. Afterschool physical activity programs would reduce obesity the most, 1.8 percent, among children ages 6 to 12. A ban on child-directed fast-food advertising would have the least effect, .9 percent.
Dr. Sanchez highlights the factors contributing to childhood obesity not just in the Hispanic population, but among all Americans:
The truth is our Hispanic community faces some real challenges in its fight on obesity. Studies show Hispanic children:
• Drink more sugary beverages–soda, sports and energy drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and sweetened milk–than their white (non-Hispanic) peers.
• Find fewer options for healthy physical activity outside of school, often because of limited access to parks, playgrounds and other recreational areas.
• Lack access to healthy foods, such as fresh produce, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, often because of limited access to neighborhood stores that sell healthier foods.
• Are exposed to 13 hours of media per day, compared to about eight hours per day for their white (non-Hispanic) peers.
It’s not complicated. Making a dent in any of these contributors will begin to solve the problem of obesity for all Americans, young and old, big and small.