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Link Between Childhood Obesity, Adult Discrimination

Armen Hareyan's picture

US Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity sites that there is a 70% chance of overweight adolescents becoming overweight or obese adults.

The chances increase to 80% if one or more of the parents are overweight or obese. This strong association between childhood obesity and subsequent adult obesity creates an obvious need to focus attention on habit change, nutrition, and exercise during childhood (when habits are being formed and are easier to correct).

There are many serious health risks associated with being overweight or obese including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, arthritis, and sleep apnea. The health risks are well researched and documented. However, very few studies have addressed the social and personal economic impact of being overweight or obese.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl and Dr. Kelly Brownell of Yale University have conducted a review of discriminatory behaviors and negative attitudes that people have towards overweight and obese adults. The review was published in the professional journal Obesity Research. Their study suggests that discrimination towards overweight and obese adults is widespread and includes the following findings:

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-- There is significant negative hiring prejudice for overweight and obese adults particularly for women, sales positions, and managerial positions.

-- There is a significant wage penalty for being obese.

-- Obese adults have lower promotion prospects due to discrimination.

-- Many health care workers have negative attitudes regarding obese patients.

-- Many educators also have a prejudice against overweight and obese students.

One method to combat adult obesity is to modify the nutrition and exercise habits of "at risk" children. Shawn McCance, Founder of the Thriving Child Corporation is launching the Aqua Fitness and Nutrition Program in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This eight-week program will combine family (both parent and child-level) nutrition education with swimming games and basic swimming stroke instruction (three days a week). The goal is to modify life-long behavior through habit change, incorporating both physical fitness and improved nutrition. Nutrition sessions will be taught by highly qualified Registered Dietitians. Swimming sessions (taught by skilled swim coaches) are focused on having "fun in the water." The goal is learn (or re-learn) that exercise can be truly enjoyable.