Kids in Parks: The Impact of Obesity

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 17% of children in the United States are obese. From 1980 to 2008 the obesity rate TRIPLED for children.[i] In Washington 26% of people are obese or overweight. In Spokane County, 27% of our friends and neighbors are obese.[ii]

The Washington State Department of Health tells us that the risk of being obese increase with every single step down the economic ladder – meaning that those with the least access to preventative medical care are the ones who need it the most.

Adults with annual household incomes of less than $35,000 are 44% more likely

to be obese than those in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more.

Obesity in Washington State, Washington State Department of Health, Feb 2009

Additionally, the less education a person has, the more likely she is to be obese. Adults without a college degree are 52% more likely to be obese than college graduates - even when accounting for other socio-economic differences. And there is additionally a huge disparity among various ethnicities, with African Americans and Hispanics far more likely to be obese.

In 2008 the medical costs related to obesity was $147 billion – and that was only direct medical expenses for U.S. adults. Once chronic sick days and reduced productivity are taken into account, the hit to the economy is even more substantial. Sadly, the CDC projects that, without intervention to stop the trend, ½ of the U.S. population will be overweight or obese.

Scientists and policy pundits can debate the various factors that heave led us to this place, but they all agree that our world is now set-up to promote decreasing amounts of physical activity. We need to change the equation and put physical activity back into our every day lives – and to get the message of health and wellness out in ways that reach increasing numbers of people and in multiple settings. Further, the healthy choices offered need to be varied, readily available and easily affordable. The CDC has identified five target areas for preventing and reducing obesity, the second of which the Spokane Parks Foundation is pursuing through our new Kids in Parks program: Increase physical activity.

[i], Center for Disease Control

[ii], Washington State Department of Health

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