What puts a kid at risk of becoming obese?



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Posted on August 7, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Arlene Treumer was troubled by her 10-year-old son's weight gain, but helping Jacob was stressful. It put her at odds with her husband.

"I was always the food police, and I was like, 'you can't do this, you can't do that. Don't bring that in,'" she said.

And safety concerns kept her from encouraging Jacob to play outdoors.

"The problem is we have no sidewalks. So in order for the kids to ride their bike or walk outside it makes me really nervous because even though we live on a dead end street cars are going very fast," she said.

Those stresses figured in to Jacob's weight gain.  What factors contribute in other kids? Dr. Mollie Grow with Seattle Children's Research Institute wanted to know.

"There may be stress for the family. And it may make it harder for the parents to provide healthier foods, to shop and to cook, and make those things happen," said Dr. Grow.

Using data from the 2000 census, her team found some things obese kids in King County had in common. Neighborhoods with more single parents, less educated mothers, lower incomes, and more non-white residents had nearly 25 percent more kids with weight problems.

Those are just part of the puzzle. But Dr. Grow believes knowing what contributes to a child's weight problem will help in solving it.

"Really it's the family and their community that are influencing the child's weight status. So there are things that families can do, that parents can do to help their kids be as healthy as possible," she said.

To help Jacob, the Treumers completed the ACT program with the Northshore YMCA. ACT stands for "actively changing together." It includes weekly exercise, and nutrition education. Arlene says Jacob is taking small steps that are improving his health, and more.

"I've seen a big change in Jacob. I think that he's more confident," said Arlene.

To join the act program at the Y, families need a referral from a healthcare provider or a school nurse.