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OBESITY RATES 'ALARMING' IN NAVY KIDS, ODU STUDY SAYS

An alarming relationship exists between obesity among children of Navy families and sedentary behavior, according to a recent Old Dominion University study published in the journal "Military Medicine."

Navy children also have higher rates of obesity than their civilian classmates, researchers said.

The study is one of the few in the literature to examine this issue in dependents of active duty military personnel, one of the researchers said. The study surveyed more than 100 children, ages 9-12, from Navy families in the Hampton Roads region, home to the world's largest Navy installation. Using body mass index (BMI) readings, nearly 40 percent of the children were found to be obese, with BMI readings greater than the 95th percentile.

Navy parents and children must receive education from clinicians, educators and other health professionals about physically active alternatives to sedentary leisure pursuits, including computer usage and watching TV, because unhealthy children will grow up to be unhealthy adults, one of the researchers said.

Shaye Arluk, a 2001 graduate of ODU, is the principal author of the article. ODU faculty members David Branch, David Swain and Elizabeth Dowling are listed as contributors.

According to the study, education policy makers must strengthen, not weaken, elementary/secondary physical education curricula in order to combat the increasing prevalence of obesity and other health problems in children.

Researchers at ODU are now seeing Type II diabetes mellitus in children, a disease that was previously all but unheard of in that age group. The study reports a link between pediatric and maternal obesity and, since mothers are often the primary caregivers in military families, the relationship warrants further investigation, Branch said.

Adults must be positive role models for fitness, health and nutrition, the study concludes. The importance of parental supervision and a paternal role model, such as a father who exercises with the child, are keys to preventing childhood obesity. The study also suggests parental involvement in limiting children's time on computers or watching TV and involving mothers and children in obesity prevention programs.

For a copy of the article or to arrange an interview with the researchers, contact Jay Lidington at jlidingt@odu.edu or (757) 683-4683.

This article was posted on: September 11, 2003

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