NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – While recent data suggests that America is beginning to win in the war against childhood obesity, both national researchers and New Rochelle residents alike remain skeptical.
In a study published Monday, researchers at JAMA Pediatrics – who looked at the data of more than 26,000 children that participated in a national health and nutrition survey between1999 to 2012 – claim the positive outlook may be nothing more than an aberration, and obesity in children of all ages is on the rise.
According to the study, severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999. That year, less than 1 percent of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category, meaning they had a body mass index (BMI) that was 140 percent higher than their peers.
As recently as 2012, that figure had risen to 2.1 percent. Additionally, 5.9 percent of children were Class 2 obese, having a BMI that was 120 percent of their peers, which is a trend New Rochelle resident Sharon Marie Ianuzi called “alarming.”
“With the amount of awareness that is out there on the subject, it’s a wonder that parents still let this happen to their children,” she said. “It all starts at the top. It’s up to parents to make sure their kids know it’s important to eat healthy.”
Children are defined as “obese” if their BMI is among the top 5 percent of their age and gender group. According to the Center for Disease Control, obese youth are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health risks. They are also more likely to be overweight as adults.
“Put down the Happy Meals and pick up a carrot stick. I’m not a parent yet, but it doesn’t seem too difficult to have your kids eat healthy,” Mamaroneck resident Joe Alexander said while eating lunch in New Rochelle. “Especially now that we know the risks, you’d think it would be stressed a little more.”
Perry Gulvin, who said he struggled occasionally with his weight as a child in New Rochelle, noted that sometimes, a healthy option isn’t readily available for children.
“For me, our family was more likely to eat out than sit down and have a real meal, so that was my downfall,” he said. “As we grew older, we were able to educate ourselves and we’ve been better about it since.”