Opinion

Childhood obesity is a problem we all bear

An editorial from The Journal     

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginians – particularly children – are going in the wrong direction when it comes to obesity and chronic health problems such as Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

During the past couple of weeks, politicians have been especially busy attempting to convince us they can solve virtually every problem. Conversely, their opponents must be the source of every woe.

But as is the case with so many challenges, politics has little to do with obesity.

Here in West Virginia, children whose health is being affected by their weight are an increasing concern. In fact, Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, medical director of the Healthy Kids Pediatric Weight Management Program at Charleston Area Medical Center, said that, though her specialty is pediatrics, she has had to go back to school to learn how to treat diabetes and hypertension.

Jeffrey makes the point that the epidemic of pediatric obesity in the Mountain State is a multi-faceted problem, one for which everyone must be involved in finding a solution.

“I think, like anything complex, it’s everybody’s job,” she said in a published report. “I wish we would get off pointing fingers by saying it’s school lunches, it’s sugary beverages, it’s a lack of physical activity in school, it’s the computer generation. It’s all of that if you’re looking at population health.”

And so, for example, Jeffrey explains that hospitals, which should be setting the bar, can often be difficult places to find healthy foods. Fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which can take the place of farmers markets and larger grocery stores for those who live in areas where distance and transportation can be a problem, often provide the bulk of what some parents are able to feed their children. Food and beverage companies continue to manipulate labels in such a way as to confuse consumers instead of informing them.

While the buck still stops with the parents or guardians providing food for West Virginia’s kids, Jeffrey is correct is believing we must all get on board.

“We’ve got to make systems change,” she said. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time and work through that socio-ecological model to get to culture because, until we get to that culture change, nothing is going to happen.”

And if we do not, the costs may be more than we are prepared to bear.

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