The Office of Minority Health indicates Mexican-American children are 1.6 times are likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic white children, and new research suggests the disparity has to do with more than just poor diet and lack of parental involvement.
According to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls feel they are where they should be weight-wise. Though the numbers are indicative of all children, non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American children had the highest prevalence of weight misconception.
Researchers also found how a child perceived weight was dependent on household income level, with those children in poorer situations more likely to feel their weight was not an issue. Not only did the children in the study indicate their weight was normal, may who were overweight actually misidentified themselves as underweight.
Dr. Daniel Neides, medical director for the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, told TIME much of the study’s results have to do with the environments children are exposed to as they grow. The children found to be the most likely to incorrectly interpret their weight are also from the same groups where adult obesity is the worst. This indicates that, as the country continues to struggle with adult obesity, children will accept it as normal because they see it in their own parents.
And parents are part of the problem. Research earlier in 2014 found almost half of parents (51 percent) are in denial about their child’s weight, ad what’s more, those parents usually aren’t receptive to hearing the truth from family medical providers.
“Parents who underestimate their kids’ weight may not take action to encourage healthy behaviors that would improve their child’s weight and reduce their risk of future health conditions,” said lead author Alyssa Lundah to USA Today,at the time.
Neides adds, “People are very sensitive to weight and to growth charts, and [parents] will argue it hasnt been updated in years. We feel like young people are immortal and will be fine, and that population also doesnt see the long-term implications.”
Childhood obesity is nothing to be pushed aside, however. The CDC indicates childhood obesity has more than quadrupled over the last 30 years, with more than a third of all children ad adolescents overweight or obese as of the latest data. Among obese 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent already have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and being overweight at a young age increases the risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
Experts indicate the childhood obesity problem is one that must be controlled quickly; overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults and are less likely to see an issue with their own children when the time comes. To break the cycle, children must be taught the value of leading healthy lifestyles either through school programs or through outreach initiatives if healthy lessons aren’t being enforced at home.