It’s a Burden We All Face
Author, Julia Kovach, is a community outreach expert and passionate advocate for health equality
It’s a Burden We All Face
To anyone with access to a television, radio, or newspaper, it isn’t news that childhood obesity rates are on the rise. We hear every day this report or that study has found that our children are getting bigger and bigger, and all of this gloom and doom is making us more complacent.
Here are the facts:
- 12.5 million children in the US are overweight or obese (CDC.gov). That is roughly the population for the entire state of Pennsylvania.
- Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have tripled (CDC.gov).
- Nearly one third of American children are overweight or obese, and the rates are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities (Let’s Move!)
- 1 of 7 low-income, preschool-aged children is obese (CDC.gov).
- One third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. (Let’s Move!)
What does this all mean? It means that the years to come we will continue to see an increase in obesity-related health problems, like higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Type II diabetes. Some may think, “I’m not sick, and I’m not overweight, so it’s not my problem.” Such thinking fails to take in to account how these health services are paid for. Socio-economic groups with high levels of obesity are often those at or below the poverty line (CDC.gov). These populations rely heavily on public health services, and many individuals in this category utilize the hospital emergency room for primary care.
A study by the nonprofit organization Integral Care Coalition found that between 2003 to 2008, just 9 individuals were responsible for 2700 emergency room visits in Travis County. The same organization released a study in 2006 that the uninsured in Central Texas were four times as likely to receive care in the ER versus a doctor’s office (Integral Care Coalition). Individuals most at risk for developing obesity-related health problems are those who are also the least likely to be able to pay for those health problems. That puts the economic burden on everyone’s shoulders, and then it really is all of our problem.
With statistics like these, the situation appears rather bleak. We are talking about the health of an entire generation of children. It is a situation that impacts us all, from the rising healthcare costs to economic (and health) disparity between those with healthier lifestyles and those without.
When presented with just a problem and no solutions, it is easy to begin to give up, to see only a hopeless future, a place where an “I can’t do anything about it” attitude is common.
Without trying too sound cliché, the future starts now. You can do something about the obesity tsunami that’s quickly approaching, and it won’t take the impossible to save the Obese Generation. Change for a healthier life begins with the individual, begins with you. You can use your voice to say “I do not accept this – this is not my future.” You can use your voice to demand the change necessary to help our kids live lives better than our own. Sitting back and waiting for the world to change is no solution.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It’s your time to demand healthy, be it better food choices at movie theater, requisite PE at your child’s school, or more anti-bullying resources in your community. IT’S TIME to do something, because it will soon be too late.
Gandhi also said, “Action expresses priorities.” If our children’s health is not a priority, what else is?
Julia has been working in public outreach and social services since 2001. Julia graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Anthropology. She began working with youth as Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua to create sustainable health education programs and later as a teacher in South Korea. Since moving to Austin, Julia has been working with a wide variety of non-profits and other agencies to improve access to community resources for generally low-income families. For more on Julia, visit the Meet the Bloggers page.