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Child watching TV
10.25.02
Science and Health:
Fit or Fat?
More on This Story:
Facts and Stats

A new statistic about American kids made headlines. Turns out that they are fatter than ever before. Overweight kids have an increased chance of becoming overweight adults. And the Centers for Disease Control has already told us that the majority of Americans are overweight.

But the problem is not just ours alone. A recent summit of health officials in Europe was held to address the increasing numbers of overweight children and adults in Europe. In addition, the World Health Organization has started reporting numbers of overweight children along with numbers of wasted (undernourished) children for developing countries. The experts appear to agree — the phenomenon is a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise. You'll find more statistics about fitness and fatness below — and some proposed solutions for making children more active in our Lesson Plan. You can also find local health and exercise programs for children by using our Resource Map.

The Weight of American Youth

Percentage U.S. 6-11-year-olds overweight, c. 1963-65:  4.2%
Percentage U.S. 12-19-year-olds overweight, c. 1966-70:  4.6%
Percentage U.S. 6-11-year-olds overweight, c. 1971-74:  4.0%
Percentage U.S. 12-19-year-olds overweight, c. 1971-74:  6.1%
Percentage U.S. 6-11-year-olds overweight, c. 1976-80:  6.5%
Percentage U.S. 12-19-year-olds overweight, c. 1976-80:  5.0%
Percentage U.S. 6-11-year-olds overweight, c. 1988-94:  11.3%
Percentage U.S. 12-19-year-olds overweight, c. 1988-94:  10.5%
Percentage U.S. 6-11-year-olds overweight, c. 1999-2000:  15.3%
Percentage U.S. 12-19-year-olds overweight, c. 1999-2000:  15.5%
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control, "Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2000," Health, United States 2002 Report

Weight and Kids Worldwide

Percentage of 10-year-olds overweight or obese, 2002, Italy:  36%
Greece:  31%
Spain:  30%
United States:  25%
Britain:  22%
France:  17%
Germany:  15%
Netherlands:  14%
Sources: THE ECONOMIST, International Obesity Taskforce

Sources: Centers for Disease Control, "U.S. Obesity Trends 1985-2000"; THE ECONOMIST, BBCNEws, "TV Encourages Poor Eating Habits"; "Obesity a Worldwide Problem"; Kaiser Family Foundation, "Kids and Media @ the New Millennium"; World Health Organization; ; World Health Organization, "Controlling the Global Obesity Epidemic"


Kids and Media Resources:

Cardiovascular Health Promotion for Children
John Hopkins Medical Center Division of Cardiology provides research and statistics documenting the relationship between childhood obesity and future health problems. The site also offers helpful tips on cutting fatty food intake.

Center for a New American Dream
The Center's "The Nag Factor," a survey study, discovered that children would constantly ask for aggressively advertised products, despite continued rebuffs. Other materials on this Web page include a free PDF pamphlet "Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture," advocacy opportunities, and statistics and facts regarding commercialization and kids.

Judge Baker Children's Center: The Media Center
Founded in 1994 by Judge Baker Children's Center, The Media Center's mission is to document the influence of the media on children's lives. The Media Center's Web site offers their mission statement, articles written by Media Center staff, and press relating to the commercialization of childhood.

Obese Children
This report from the Online News Hour calls attention to the explosion of childhood obesity and the ramifications for children's long-term health.

Obesity Statistics
CNN.com provides an array of obesity statistics including total number of overweight youths and percentage of cardiovascular disease cases related to obesity.

Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the United States Surgeon General
A report from the U.S. Surgeon General, "Physical Activity and Health" concludes "that people of all ages can improve the quality of their lives through a lifelong practice of moderate physical activity." The report's research discovers that despite the benefits of physical activity, 60 percent of Americans are not regularly physically active while 25 percent are not physically active at all.

Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children
Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children (SCEC) is a coalition of child welfare groups, citizen groups, consumer advocates, and media organizations opposed to the increasing commercialization of children. According to SCEC, "Children influence $500 billion in spending per year. As a result, they are bombarded with commercials for products, including violent toys and junk food." The SCEC Web site provides information of the coalition, upcoming events, membership, and links to other relevant links.

The TV Project
The TV Project is an educational organization that provides research and statistics on the effect of television watching on children. The TV Project's Web site features advice for parents, studies on the effect of video games on children, a list of books worth reading, workshops, and links.

VERB
From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, VERB encourages sports and creative activities as a cure for the childhood couch potato.

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