Severe Obesity on the Rise Among U.S. Kids

Despite a spate of recent studies claiming a drop in the childhood obesity rate–especially one study that claimed a 43 percent drop in preschoolers with weight problems–new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found a sharp rise in the number of U.S. kids who are severely obese.  More from CNN:

The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.

Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category – meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.

“I think there’s certain kids who are at greatest risk for obesity,” said lead study author Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “When you put them in an environment like this one… they’re more likely to gain a whole lot of weight. That’s part of what’s going on.”

The risks associated with that extra weight are scary.

Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also at risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and psychological problems due to poor self-esteem. Studies show that obese children and adolescents are likely to remain obese as adults.

A separate study published in the journal Pediatrics this week estimates an obese child will incur anywhere from $12,000 to $19,000 in additional medical costs throughout his or her lifetime compared to a normal weight child.

Image: Blocks spelling “Obese,” via Shutterstock

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College Tuition Rising Way Ahead of Family Incomes

A new study comparing college tuition with family income has found that tuition has more than doubled relative to income in the past four decades.  More from Newsweek:

That cost includes tuition, fees, and room and board for full-time students at degree-granting institutions—for both public and private colleges and universities. Back then, the average cost came to $9,502 after adjusting for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2012, the average was $19,339. With a typical family earning $51,017—the U.S. median income—college tuition for just one child will absorb almost 40 percent of their income. That surpasses housing as the single biggest household expense.

If college costs were rising along with family income, there wouldn’t be a problem. But college costs have risen way ahead of income. There are several reasons. For starters, administration costs have been growing rapidly on most campuses. In part this has to do with an explosion in applications and enrollments, which require more resources. But salaries of administrators, particularly those in charge, seem out of line with the rest of the institution. It’s not unheard of for compensation of the president of a large university to approach $1 million. Meanwhile, campuses have seen a boom in infrastructure spending to upgrade student facilities like gyms, student centers and dorms. Finally, many public universities have offset cuts in state aid by raising fees.

Of course, the price of college varies greatly depending on where you go, and whether the institution is public or private. Almost three-quarters of Americans attend public universities and colleges, where costs have been rising quickly but still remain far less than private institutions. In 1969, public colleges and universities charged an average of $7,206, compared with $14,292 in 2012, after adjusting for inflation. By contrast, private institutions averaged $15,329 back then, vs. $33,047 in 2012.

Today, the cost of a private college or university would be unattainable for most families if they didn’t get substantial financial aid. At elite colleges and universities, the cost is considerably more than what a typical family earns. Without financial aid, a single year at Princeton can set you back $58,965.

Image: Money, via Shutterstock

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Kevin Federline Fathers Sixth Child

Kevin Federline, a former backup dancer who was married to Britney Spears, is a father again, welcoming a baby girl with his wife, Victoria Prince.  More from PEOPLE.com:

The former backup dancer, 36, and his wife, Victoria Prince, are also parents toJordan Kay, 2½.

The proud papa announced the arrival of his baby girl by posting a photo of an “It’s a Girl!” wagon filled with flowers.

“Words cannot express the joy my children bring me. We are very excited to welcome the newest member of our family,” he writes. “I love you with all my heart [Victoria]. #thefedz #sixthman I mean #sixthwoman.”

Federline is also dad to sons Jayden Jaymes, 7½, and Sean Preston, 8½, with ex-wife Britney Spears, and Kaleb, 9½, and daughter Kori, 13, with ex-girlfriend Shar Jackson.

Image: Kevin Federline, via Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

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Fathers’ Role in Food Security Studied Amid Food Stamp Cuts

Dads who don’t live with their children but are involved in their lives may be helping their kids achieve better food security, researchers at Rutgers University have found.  The findings come in the wake of a reduction in food stamp funding that affected 47 million Americans in November.  More from the university:

The new research, published this month by Lenna Nepomnyaschy, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, in Social Service Review has found that nonresident father involvement in a child’s life is positively associated with lower food insecurity in both early and middle childhood. Involvement could include time spent with the child, monetary contributions and “in kind” support, such as treats, gifts and payment of medical or childcare expenses. In particular, in kind support resulted in a 10 to 12 percent reduction in food insecurity for children.

“These results add to mounting evidence that nonresident father involvement, outside of the formal child support system, positively affects children and must be considered in policy discussions related to child support, child poverty and child well-being,” says Nepomnyaschy.

Research on food insecurity for children is especially timely, as 47 million food stamp recipients in the U.S. received a $5 billion reduction in November. And Congress is preparing to cut even more out of the nutrition program. Lawmakers are currently finalizing a federal farm bill which is likely to reduce food stamp benefits by $8.7 billion over the next decade.

“As families lose food stamps, any resources a father provides become even more important,” Nepomnyaschy said. ”Men overwhelmingly want to contribute to the well-being of their children, and child support alone may not increase food security. If a woman is on welfare, the state takes her child support to reimburse the cost for welfare, rather than it benefiting the child.”

Using two nationally representative longitudinal panel data sets from the Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics which followed children through early and middle childhood and assessed economic stability and food insecurity in the home, the researchers found this trend to be consistent across both sets of data.

“For vulnerable families, fathers’ contributions of time and material resources have a positive effect on food security,” Nepomnyaschy said. ”Having in kind support may help the mother to reallocate her resources to provide more food for the household. The father’s visits may reduce her stress and enhance her parenting, providing her the resources and time to grocery shop and cook meals.”

More than 1 in 10 children in the U.S. experience food insecurity, and children in single-mother families are at greatest risk, being three times as likely to not get enough food, than children in two-parent families.

Image: Father and children, via Shutterstock

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Survey Reveals Parents’ Online Safety Attitudes

More than three quarters of American parents discuss online safety with their children, according to a new national survey, which is a reassuring finding given that the same survey found that 95 percent of 12-15 year-olds own at least one smartphone, tablet, or other web-connected device.  More details of the survey, which was compiled by the commerce website eBuyer.com, were published on Mashable:

  • 83 percent of parents surveyed trust their children to use the Internet safely
  • 12-15 year-olds have an average of 78 Facebook friends they’ve never met in real life
  • Kids in the same age demographic send an average of 255 text messages each week
  • 64 percent of kids report having had a negative experience online, but only 22 percent of parents report that their kids have had a negative experience
  • 57 percent of kids have accidentally accessed inappropriate material online

Image: Kids playing with smartphones, via Shutterstock

Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep

These activities will keep your kiddos occupied without using any screen time.

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