Ending the epidemic of adolescent obesity (Online Exclusive)
MaryAnn Edelman MS, RN, CNS
Carmel T. Ficorelli MSN, RN, FNP

November 2012 
Volume 42  Number 11
Pages 1 - 3
  PDF Version Available!

"MAN, I'M STARVING! I'll have a burger, fries, and a coke, and supersize that for me, please!" Bigger is better, right? That seems to be the American way, but at what cost to our youth?Affecting children and teens ages 6 to 19, childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions in the United States today. The percentage of obese American children has tripled over the last 30 years and the numbers continue to rise.1Childhood obesity places young people at great risk for serious chronic illness and even premature death.2 Losing weight isn't easy for many people and can be a sore subject, specifically among teenagers. But, as little as a 5% loss of body weight will decrease the risks of developing heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, and will greatly improve the quality of life.3 This article addresses the various factors contributing to childhood obesity and discusses what nurses can do to help end the epidemic.Obesity can be defined as excess weight of at least 20% when comparing children of similar height, gender, and age.4 One of the most commonly used measures for identifying overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by taking the weight of an individual in kilograms and dividing by the individual's height in meters squared. When used in adults, a BMI of 25 - 29.9 is the determining factor in identifying someone who's overweight; a BMI of greater than or equal to 30 classifies an adult as obese.5In children it's more commonplace to use the CDC Growth Charts, which classify children as either being at risk for overweight/overweight or obese. For example, children and adolescents who range in age from 2 to 19 may be classified as overweight if their BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile for children of the same gender and age. Children whose BMI is at or greater than the 95th percentile on the charts are classified as obese.6,7 Using the BMI as a tool, experts have determined that approximately 18% of children ages 6 to 17 are currently

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