Childhood Obesity

by SKHC Editor on March 4, 2008

The winter, 2008, issue of the American Heart Association’s “Heart and Stroke News” tells us that from 1998 to 2004, “The number of children hospitalized for obesity-related complications tripled.” The newsletter further states, “The most common problems were sleep apnea, high blood pressure and gallstones.” In children under age 18, the number of gastric bypass surgeries climbed from 500 to 4,000.

The KidsHealth website also tells us that one third of all kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese and projects that nearly half of the kids in North America will weigh too much by 2010 – only two years from now. The data is appalling!

We have to consider the causes and effects. Genetics and/or lifestyle habits contribute to the causative factors. What we, as school nurses, deal with are the devastating effects of childhood obesity. Here is a partial list of the health problems of being overweight or obese:

• Asthma

• Bone and joint problems

• Depression

• Fatty liver

• Gallstones

• High blood pressure

• High cholesterol

• Insulin resistance and diabetes

• Sleep disorders

Kids who are overweight or obese tend to have low self-esteem and may be teased, rejected or bullied by their peers. In addition, they can develop unhealthy dieting habits and eating disorders. The issues are complex, but there can be no doubt that being overweight or obese is exacting a huge toll on our kids, both physically and psychologically. The long-term health of our kids is at stake!

The prevention and treatment of childhood obesity is as complex, if not more complex, than the causes and effects. It involves family and societal dynamics and uses a systems approach. The question is are we up to the challenge?

The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NIHCQ) is looking for ideas on treatment. If you have a successful program being done in a community or primary care setting, they are seeking your input. Contact them by going to their website at

Have you had some success in your school or district in dealing with childhood obesity? Are you willing to share your stories with other school nurses so that we can learn from one another? This is the format! We are anxious to hear from you.

Twyla Lato, RN, BSN, NCSN is a School District Nurse for a suburban community in southeast Wisconsin, and a past president of the Wisconsin Association of School Nurses.

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