Weighing Bay County

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Bay County has super-sized itself into a problem. Now, the county Health Department is getting ready to crack down on expanding waistlines.

With more than 50 percent of people in Bay County overweight or obese, this becomes a growing health issue that can lead to even more health problems. That's why Rick Davis with the Health Department is organizing a volunteer obesity task force.

"Fifty seven percent of Floridians are overweight and it's costing Florida almost $4 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare cost."

Weighing in on the obesity problem now is important because so many don't realize the side effects. Julia Ruschmann with the Health Department says the list of diseases related to obesity is not short.

"They don't see the effects immediately. They think, oh it doesn't bother me. I can have those super-size meals and those all you can eat buffets with three or four desserts, it's not affecting me."

Unfortunately, Ruschmann says before the waistline expands serious health problems can attack the body.

"I think that may be why we're seeing an increase in the disease such as diabetes."

Davis says this is just the beginning of a problem that could be controlled.

"The Centers for Disease Control estimates that very soon obesity and weight will overcome tobacco as the leading cause of preventable disease and death."

Obesity does not depend on age. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control actually estimates that this generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The volunteer obesity task force met for the first time Wednesday afternoon. For more information about upcoming meetings and to get involved call the Bay County Health Department at 872-4455.

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Obesity in Children

  • In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight.

  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.

  • Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

  • The most immediate consequence of being overweight or obese as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

Cause of Obesity

  • Obesity in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.

  • Forty-three percent of adolescents watch more than two hours of television each day.

  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.


  • Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or adolescent's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.

  • A physician will also consider your child or adolescent's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

General Suggestions

  • Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem.

  • Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

  • Focus on your child's health and positive qualities, not your child's weight.

  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

Physical Activity Suggestions

  • Be physically active. It is recommended that Americans accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Even greater amounts of physical activity may be necessary for the prevention of weight gain, for weight loss, or for sustaining weight loss.

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

  • Provide a safe environment for your children and their friends to play actively; encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, and other fun activities.

  • Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than two hours a day.

Source: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm (The Surgeon General's Call to Action Web site)