EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Obesity is a growing health concern all across the country. More than 60 percent of adults are considered obese or overweight in the U.S. and now the problem is spreading to children as young as preschoolers.
Doctors say some children as young as two years of age are popping up on their obesity charts. With September being Childhood Obesity Prevention Month, experts want to spread the word about the disease the affects millions.
23 million kids ages 2 to 19 are now officially classified as "obese" or "overweight" in America.
“And another thing is-we're seeing more kids at a younger age that are being affected by obesity,” said Susan Miller, Dietitian with Sacred Heart Hospital.
Miller says 24 months is when you need to take a look at your toddler and see if that cute baby fat could be the start of childhood obesity.
Obesity is now in the top three health concerns identified by Eau Claire County. City County Health Department says one fifth of children under the age of five are obese in the county alone.
“If you just walk the street you see young kids that are obese. The data that we do collect does show us that a significant percent of young children, those pre-school kids are obese,” said Director of Eau Claire City County Health Department Lieske Giese.
Experts say sugary drinks, unhealthy snacks and lack of exercise are some of the contributing factors.
“It is parent’s job to make sure that they're taking that into control and setting good limits; being a good role model,” said Giese.
With more than 36 % of adults being obese in the area, Brook Berg with UW Extensions says switching the entire family to a healthier lifestyle, and not just the child is step one.
“You don't necessarily need to tell the child that ‘you need to lose weight’. But you tell them, we want you to eat healthy because we want you to grow up strong and healthy,” said Miller.
The Centers for Disease Control says obese kids are eight times more likely to become obese adults, which down the road could cost our nation a lot in healthcare dollars.
“It's impacting chronic diseases in our community and that costs us a lot of money. And it costs lives,” added Giese.
Research says babies that are breast fed are less likely to become obese. Doctors say an obese child can develop low self-esteem and even become isolated.
And experts say don't be afraid to say "no" to your kids when it comes to sugary foods. It is the nicest thing you could do for them in the long run.