Free
Letters to the Editor  |   July 2007
Childhood Obesity: Call to Action for America's Physicians
Author Affiliations
  • Paul R. Ehrmann, DO
    Family Health Care Center Royal Oak, Mich
Article Information
Pediatrics
Letters to the Editor   |   July 2007
Childhood Obesity: Call to Action for America's Physicians
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2007, Vol. 107, 245-246. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2007.107.7.245
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, July 2007, Vol. 107, 245-246. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2007.107.7.245
To the Editor: The very health of the country hangs in the balance unless—and until—we reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity. 
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA1 
Most Americans are accustomed to gaining a few pounds from time to time. Unfortunately, more and more of us are sitting down to enjoy the bounty of summer celebrations at an already unhealthy weight. More frightening than our own health statistics—nearly 70% of American adults are overweight—are the repercussions of our poor lifestyle choices now evident in the health statistics of our children. More than 30% of children in the United States are currently overweight or at risk of becoming so.2 Among the frightening issues that confront our children unless we successfully deviate from this pattern are: 
  • Nearly 1 in 3 boys and 2 in 5 girls will develop diabetes in their lifetime with attendant future health risks3
  • Trends in increased longevity threaten to reverse by the end of the century4
  • Children have the potential not to outlive their parents5
We are in the midst of an epidemic, a public health crisis that demands national attention as a public health priority. Summer is a great time to bring attention to simple lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and exercising more, that can make a huge improvement in patients' overall quality of life. 
As national healthcare costs attributed to health complications that are ultimately the result of obesity and weight gain rise to $120 billion annually,4 parents, teachers, businesses, government officials, and health professionals—particularly physicians—are stakeholders in this preventive healthcare battle. Physicians have a unique opportunity to apply their professional expertise as well as their teaching and leadership skills to further the cause. They also have many patients who may go on to act as strong advocates in support of these efforts. 
Physicians are well positioned to lead the charge against childhood obesity and to make a difference in the lives of others. 
Lavizzo-Mourey R. In discussion of: Koplan JP, Liverman CT, Kraak VI, Wisham SL, eds. Progress in preventing childhood obesity: how do we measure up? Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2006. Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/portfolios/features/featuredetail.jsp?featureID=1903&iaid=138&type=4. Accessed July 27, 2007.
Hedley AA, Ogden CL, Johnson CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Flegal KM. Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999-2002. JAMA. 2004;291:2847-2850.
Narayan KM, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Sorensen SW, Williamson DF. Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. JAMA. 2003;290:1884-1890.
Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, Layden J, Carnes BA, Brody J, et al. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:1138-1145.
Hearings Before the Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 108th Cong (March 2, 2004) (testimony of Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, surgeon general). Available at: http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=1079&wit_id=3044. Accessed July 27, 2007.