As childhood obesity increases, doctors say it's a family issue

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

President Obama and the First Lady are speaking out about fighting childhood obesity. Michelle Obama launched her "Let's Move" campaign on Tuesday with hopes of teaching kids about nutrition and exercise.

The First Lady shared her goals, including increasing the level of regular physical activity, improving the accessibility and affordability of food, and helping consumers make better food choices

A Milwaukee area farmer joined Michelle Obama at Tuesday's campaign launch. Will Allen is the founder of Growing Power, Inc., a Milwaukee based company that develops urban farming techniques and teaches young people how to grow food in poor, inner city neighborhoods.

The Centers for Disease Control says obesity among kids has more than tripled in the last 30 years. An area physician says childhood obesity is a family issue.

"We're starting to sense this is going to be a major catastrophe for us if we don't correct it," Luther Midelfort's Dr. David Usher said.

Dr. Usher says there are a few genetic types of obesity, but for most being overweight is a learned problem.

"Kids learn to eat from their parents, they learn eating styles, habits, types of foods. They learn to eat in response to stress," he said.

He says what probably contributes to childhood obesity the most are sugared beverages. When people hear that they may think only of pop, but Usher says juice isn’t any better.

"If you read the nutrition labels, an ounce of orange juice has exactly the same amount of sugar as coca-cola," he said.

Dr. Usher says sugar, carbs and too much screen time are all causing weight gain, and in turn, medical problems in kids.

"Absolutely no eating in front of the television. That's gotta go. Type two diabetes, which has always been an adult health problem, is starting to show up in teens now, which is tragic because that's really a high-risk situation for heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, and high blood pressure," Dr. Usher said.

As obesity continues to rise more and more parents say they're being cautious.

"I think it's important you start ‘em out right and then they really don't know a difference," mother of four, Michelle Lyons said.

"We try to incorporate a lot of exercise into our weekly schedule. We also try to limit a lot of sugary snacks," Jodi Erickson said.

"They get hooked on sugary snacks like pop and juice, and kids really just aren't able to make those decisions themselves. So parents need to know what they're eating and drinking," Eau Claire mom Mindy Craig said.

The Wisconsin Department of Health says in 2008, more than a quarter of Wisconsinites were obese. Dr. Usher says check-ups are always important to keep track of kids' weight gain.


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