Research has shown that Hispanic and African-American children are more likely to struggle with obesity during their adolescent years than their Caucasian peers. Although childhood obesity has steadily become more common in every race since the 1970s, minorities still report higher percentages of overweight children. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, African-American and Hispanic children are at higher risk for nearly every cause of childhood obesity before they even reach four years of age.
Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity
Many risk factors are already in place before a child is even born. Other risk factors are established during infancy. Children are more likely to experience obesity during their preschool and elementary years if their mothers are obese, if their mothers experience gestational diabetes during pregnancy, or if their mothers struggle with depression. Parents can decrease the risk of obesity in their children during their earliest stages of life by not introducing solid foods until after 6 months and continuing to breastfeed for at least a year.
As a child ages, parents can continue encouraging healthy eating habits and activities by limiting time in front of the television, not putting a TV set in the child's room, and avoiding fast food as a meal option for the kids.
What Can Be Done
CBS News reports that inflammation and risk for future heart disease can be found in obese children as young as three years old. Before a child even reaches preschool, lifelong habits and consequences have already begun. Educating expecting or new parents could help get more children off on the right foot from birth.
Teachers and healthcare professionals can also help older children to make healthier decisions. Minority and low-income children are more likely to make their own meals while their parents are at work, and they often reach for high-sodium, fatty, processed "instant" foods that aren't nutritional and can lead to weight gain. Teaching all children the basics of nutrition and showing them how to put together a few simple, healthy meals, such as whole wheat sandwiches with dark leafy greens or salads filled with a variety of vegetables, could lower the disparities among minorities when it comes to weight. School administrators can also help out by limiting the availability of junk foods in the lunch room and through vending machines.