U study shows U.S. obesity cases have doubled since 1980

by Amy Costello

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has risen drastically over the last two decades. The number of overweight people has doubled since 1980, according to a study conducted by a University epidemiologist.

University epidemiology professor Mary Story authored the study, which addressed and reviewed the attitudes and skill levels of national health care professionals regarding their perceptions and treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity.

Along with the University’s epidemiology department and School of Public Health, Story concluded that there are many barriers in the treatment of obesity.

“People feel there should be treatment, but barriers prevent that,” Story said. “The epidemic of obesity in this country is a challenge.”

The statistics show obesity among children and adolescents has become an issue health officials need to address, but their ability to do so depends on factors such as better insurance coverage, more training on nutrition, counseling strategies and more clinical time, Story said.

“In 1999 about two-thirds of U.S. adults were overweight and 13 percent of children and adolescents,” she said.

Story also said childhood and adolescent obesity can not be solved without parent cooperation, patient motivation and clinical support services.

Within the clinical support services, Story said there needs to be improvement in the lack of financial reimbursement, clinician time and training for health care professionals to solve childhood obesity issues.

The study is part of a larger report, which gathered information from pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners and registered dietitians regarding childhood and adolescent obesity health care obstacles.

Professionals have discovered children who are overweight become obese adults and have a risk of getting type II diabetes, among other conditions. Researchers have acknowledged these problems and now are seeking multi-lateral solutions, Story said.

“Three thousand deaths a year in the U.S. are associated with adult overweight and obesity,” she said.

Due to the dangerous and often deadly health risks of being overweight, prevention strategies and treatments are needed, Story said.

David Golden, Boynton Health Service’s Public Health and Marketing director, said while many individuals have been successful with weight control programs and recommendations, nationwide obesity remains a problem because of the lack of consistency in the medical community.

“There is no clinic that is successfully working with patients with weight control,” Golden said.

BHS currently has several means of helping overweight and obese patients. A nutritionist is on hand to advise patients on their daily eating habits, weight control and physical activities, and BHS is in the process of hiring an exercise physiologist.

Clinics are currently limited by the amount of treatment they can provide for an obese patient, Golden said. He also said BHS and other clinics can provide some recommendations, but until health professionals solve the barriers of obesity, clinical assistance will remain unsuccessful.