FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, March 14, 2005

Childhood Obesity Spreading in Rural US

Research throughout the US is uncovering an alarming surge in obese children in rural communities, with one study finding a 5% increase in obese children in rural areas between 1999 and 2001 -- twice the increase of urban children.

Studies in western Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and West Virginia have all come to the same conclusions. In West Virginia and Arkansas, surveys have found that as many as a quarter of public school students may be obese.

But why? No one reason stands out, but researchers note that, contrary to stereotype, rural children don't do lots of hard work on family farms -- in part because family farms are disappearing, and those that are left are highly mechanized. Yet these families still eat a heavy "farm diet" of fats and simple carbohydrates. Meanwhile, rural kids are immersed in the same high-tech gadgetry as other kids -- which might exercise their minds and reflexes, but not their bodies. Poverty also plays a role, as does boredom in communities that have little to offer children.

Obesity and its impact on healthcare is a key future trend. At a health fair in western Pennsylvania, Dr. Darrell Ellsworth found that 60% of adults measured had metabolic syndrome, an assortment of health conditions that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. "The numbers for obesity in children were nowhere near what they are today and you can just imagine what we're going to be looking at 10 to 20 years from now if nothing is done," Dr. Ellsworth said. "That 60 percent ... that's going to seem like a pretty low figure."

Source: CNN.com