Childhood obesity rising in Eagle County |

Childhood obesity rising in Eagle County

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyStudents at Meadow Mountain Elementary get some exercise during recess Thursday in Eagle-Vail. Experts say children are less active than they used to be, which is one of the reasons for rising rates of childhood obesity.

EAGLE COUNTY – The nation’s well-publicized childhood obesity epidemic is starting to hit home. While Eagle Countians – and Coloradans as a whole – are some of the thinnest people in the country, they are getting heavier. So are their children, which is particularly troubling to health care professionals. Children who are overweight are more likely to develop health problems like diabetes, heart disease and stroke as adults.”It will have an extreme impact on their health as adults,” said Joan Brucha, a health program coordinator for the state’s Health Department. “It has the potential to affect what they can accomplish in their daily living and their health care costs.”Eagle County health officials are paying attention to the rising rates of obese and overweight children. They hope to get more information about the issue, and what can be done to combat it, with an ongoing study. There is a perception that obesity is not a problem for Eagle County because so many people live here for the active, outdoorsy lifestyle, said Glenda Wentworth of the Colorado State University extension office. She supervises some nutrition programs through her job as the family and consumer science educator.

“As Coloradans, we have the lowest rates,” she said. “We want to stay there.”Economics an issue?So far, health care officials only have good data on the rates of obesity among children involved in the state’s Women, Infants and Children program. The program targets low-income families that have a tougher time getting good health care. Statewide and countywide, the rates of obesity among children in this program have been rising. In fact, children from lower-income families are more likely to be overweight than other children their age, said Jill Hunsaker, Eagle County’s public health manager. There frequently is a strong relationship between a family’s economic status and their health, she said.”They tend to have less knowledge about nutritious foods, less access to nutritional foods,” she said. “Not to mention, nutritious foods are more expensive.”

State programs are trying to address that issue, Hunsaker said. Parents are encouraged to limit sugary drinks like soda and sweetened juices, and to switch their children from whole-fat milk to lowfat milk. Mothers also should try to breastfeed infants for one year because it’s too easy to overfeed a baby with a bottle, she said. Many times parents just don’t know better, Wentworth said. There are kiosks set up in the county’s three public health clinics. Wentworth recalled watching a man look through the information booth while his wife was with a doctor. His wife was done before he had finished looking through the information.”He said ‘I’m going to use this again when I come back, but this is really important,'” she said.The television ageModern entertainment may be partly to blame, Brucha said. Families once only had about three television channels to choose from; now they have hundreds, she said. Video and computer games also continue to grow in popularity.

Children simply aren’t as active as they used to be, Brucha said. Fewer kids ride or walk to school because its no longer safe to do so. Last year, Eagle County completed a sidewalk in Edwards to connect children in a nearby mobile home park to Berry Creek Elementary School.Meanwhile, many schools across the state have cut back on their physical education programs to meet increasing demands for higher academic performance.Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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