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Helene Pavlov, M.D. Headshot

The Stigma And Sting That Is Obesity

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The news of a research study appeared in one of my email newsletters and the findings astounded me. The study followed nearly 5,000 American Indian children from childhood to middle age and found that those who were obese as children were more than twice as likely to die of illness or a self-inflicted injury before the age of 55. The number of overweight and obese children has tripled since 1980, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 17 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 years old are considered obese and almost 12 percent are considered the heaviest kids, according to a CDC study released in January. The findings of the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine detail the "serious health consequences" that children might face as they get older, lead study author Paul Franks said.

When you read between the lines, the findings, which will likely assist parents, social workers and medical professionals in helping children fight obesity, highlights an important factor in our country's obesity struggle.

Beyond the health implications there is a stigma associated with being obese. The stigma is something that very few would want to be associated with. The stigma of obesity is especially problematic for children. While many children are raised to be well behaved and polite there are a few that use things like obesity to torment and make other children feel badly about themselves. It is no surprise then that the study found that obese children may die from a self-inflicted injury as adults.

I have said it before and I will say it over and over again. Parents, teachers, our entire educational system, public service announcements, the government and many more play a role in educating children and fighting the obesity challenge. The implications of successfully educating children on the benefits of healthy eating extend far beyond helping to control health insurance costs, it also ensures that our children are psychologically healthy and not potentially setting themselves up for ridicule from other children.

Parents, teachers, our entire educational system, healthcare professionals, the government and many more also have the responsibility of educating our children on how to eat in moderation, portion control, and distinguish healthy from unhealthy snacks. In addition, they also have the responsibility to educate our youth about how to properly treat one another and recognize that we are all different and it is our differences that make us, our country, strong and able to move forward. New ideas come from people seeing things in a different way. It opens up new ideas and innovation.

Think how boring life would be if we were all exactly the same.

HSS

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