DANVILLE -- More than 1,500 parents in Pennsylvania were the subjects of a recent study done at Geisinger Medical Center. Coming from 31 elementary schools in our area, they took part in the study about childhood obesity.
The bottom line? Researchers found that education is key.
We're told time after time obesity is a risk factor for so many illnesses: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Carrying extra weight is hard on your joints, and can contribute to poor self-esteem and depression.
Now, doctors are seeing all of those things more than ever before in kids.
Dr. Lisa Bailey-Davis says 17 percent of children in the nation are obese, meaning their body mass index, or BMI, is greater than the 95th percentile.
"Out of 100 kids, they'd be heavier than 95 of those children, and in central Pennsylvania, we see rates that are even higher," Dr. Bailey-Davis said.
Dr. Bailey-Davis is the associate director for maternal and pediatric research in the Geisinger Obesity Institute.
Recently, a study she and her colleagues completed was published in a medical journal. The study found that when it comes to preventing or reversing a child's obesity, the more knowledge parents have, the better. Screening for BMI is a start, but shouldn't be the end.
"It's not enough to just share the screening result. There should also be education and available resources for parents."
Some things parents can do to keep their kids in the healthy range include reducing sugar-sweetened drinks, making fruits and veggies available for meals and snacks, and encouraging an active lifestyle.
Sleep also makes a big difference.
"They can encourage a sleep schedule, may sound simple, but it is protective when it comes to promoting a healthy weight."
Dr. Bailey-Davis says, ultimately, she would like to see more BMI education policies in schools which would decrease risk factors for a number of health issues for the students and their families.