Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice


Obesity: How the Greatest Health Epidemic of Modern Time is Affecting Children

MAY 2013

The number one cause of death in South Carolina is not car accidents, cancer or heart attacks. The supreme source of fatality in the state is obesity, and it’s growing every year into a greater and greater problem that affects children.

According to the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity’s 2010 report, obesity is a risk factor for the top four causes of death in America, and the childhood obesity epidemic in America is considered a national health crisis worse than that of polio in the 1940s and 1950s. Today’s youth are on course to being the first generation of Americans to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents. Unlike polio, there is no single cure for obesity, as it is a multifaceted and complicated problem.

“Overweight” is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) score of above 25, or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. “Obesity” is defined as a BMI score of above 30, or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.

South Carolina is the eighth most obese state in the country — 30.9 percent of adults are obese, and the combined obesity/overweight is a staggering 67 percent. A variety of studies show that close to 30 percent of youth in South Carolina are obese, with the percentage higher than 60 percent in some counties. The implications of these statistics are frightening considering that children who are overweight have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight as adults, which makes them more likely to be diagnosed with the related health problems and diseases later in life.

The Institute of Medicine states that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years nationwide. In August 2011, Dr. Vincent Degenhart, an anesthesiologist and former member of the South Carolina Medical Association Board of Trustees, recognized that physicians need to lead the state’s fight against this health crisis. Through his leadership, the South Carolina Medical Association Childhood Obesity Taskforce (SCMACOT) was created, consisting of numerous community and health care leaders all committed to stopping childhood obesity in South Carolina by targeting four key areas: schools, childcare, advocacy and insurance/healthcare.

“The numerous health issues associated with obesity all predispose these children to premature death,” Dr. Degenhart says.

Trimease Carter, Youth Coordinator with the South Carolina Eat Smart, Move More Coalition, says that diseases that are normally present in adults are now being diagnosed in children. The number of children with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol is steadily increasing, along with what used to be known as adult-onset diabetes. One third of all children born in the year 2000 are expected to develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime.

The S.C. Eat Smart, Move More Coalition coordinates obesity prevention efforts across the state and leads the implementation of South Carolina’s Obesity Prevention Plan. The ongoing collaboration among a broad range of stakeholders capitalizes upon and leverages differing areas of expertise, skill and resources to impact obesity in South Carolina.