Childhood Obesity is no laughing matter
When California Health Insurance agent Matt Lockard was growing up, a few cartoon characters were fat, and Matt laughed along with his peers. But now fat kids are far from rare, and nobody’s laughing. Childhood obesity is a national epidemic.
When California Health Insurance agent Matt Lockard was growing up, cartoon characters like Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert and Porky Pig made kids laugh. But in those days, most “fat” kids were merely chubby, few were obese, and even fewer were morbidly obese. “I watched Fat Albert and Porky Pig and Miss Piggy and the Muppets, and they made me laugh,” explains California Health Insurance agent Matt Lockard with a hint of nostalgia in his voice, “I’m not sure I even knew any really fat kids when I was a boy, and in any case, we all exercised and played sports along with watching TV. I might have played a little Pac Man as a teenager, but not for hours and hours like a lot of the kids today. There was a balance generally speaking.” The operative word is “was.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 percent of American children (over 10 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese – a number that has more than tripled since 1980 when Matt was growing up. In addition, over the past three decades the childhood obesity rate for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years has more than doubled, and studies have shown that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
“The repercussions of childhood obesity certainly impact the health insurance industry,” Lockard asserts, “along with a lack of preventative care and emphasis, obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular are major factors bringing up the cost of U.S. health care.”
Experts and Lockard are in agreement that inactivity and poor eating habits contribute greatly to obesity’s prevalence and recent rise to epidemic status, and the trends are getting worse, not better. “They eat fast food and junk food primarily, and are way too sedentary,” Lockard argues, “it’s a national tragedy that’s just beginning to be scrutinized.”
Obesity-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes are already assuming epidemic proportions along with the obesity itself, with pediatric diabetes increasing as much as 60% since 1995. As adults, these health issues experienced in childhood account for “more than half of all hospitalizations,” according to Lockard. Yet despite these grim statistics, “That’s not where politicians place their emphasis,” Lockard concludes.