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Child/Teen Obesity Rate Bad, Not Worse

Child Obesity Plateaus: 11% of Kids Heaviest of Heavy; 32% Still Overweight
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Child Obesity: Good News to Come?

Ogden's statistics suggest that the obesity epidemic is leveling off. Do these numbers reflect what's going on in the real world?

Yes, says family therapist Beth Passehl, MS, director of the Fit Kids and TIPPs for Kids programs at Children's Hospital of Atlanta. Passehl's community programs help the families of overweight and obese children to become more active and to eat more nutritious meals.

Passehl was not surprised when previous CDC figures showed the child obesity epidemic getting worse; she already was seeing obese children flooding into her programs.

"It looked worse than we knew -- and, as it turned out, it was," she tells WebMD.

And now she's not surprised that the CDC numbers suggest the epidemic has stopped accelerating. There are signs, she says, that government efforts -- such as programs to make school meals more nutritious and to get kids to be more active -- are starting to work.

"It is a bit like turning the Titanic, but there have been changes that matter," Passehl says.

She recently started a new child obesity program in one community, and noticed that people have begun to ask the right questions.

"When we start a program in a community we always ask the parent, 'What are the three things you most want?' In past they said, 'I want my child to lose weight, I want to lose weight, I don't know how to cook,'" she says. "Now I get more specific answers: 'I would like to cut down the number of sodas we drink, I would like the family to be more physically active.' To me, these are indicators that health messages are getting across."

The key, Passehl says, is not to get into a struggle with children. She says parents just don't know where to start, so they typically begin by trying to withhold food from their overweight or obese child.

"When you do this, you actually create a struggle and a challenge over who is going to win, the parent or the child. So any health messaging is never going to happen because the kids are too busy doing what they are not supposed to do," she says.

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