Childhood obesity continues rising in the East

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The obesity epidemic continues skyrocketing in eastern North Carolina and local health experts are working to stop it.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, so 9 On Your Side is taking a closer look at the issue locally.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

It’s an even bigger problem in the East. North Carolina ranks 14th in the country for childhood obesity. In eastern North Carolina, it’s 30% higher than the national average and severe obesity is double the national average.

Health experts say technology and the ease of fast food in the area are contributing to this.

“It is definitely worse in rural areas where there’s less opportunities for physical activity and it’s worse for people in poverty that have less access to healthy foods and less access to healthcare and that is of course more common in eastern North Carolina,” said Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, Pediatric Professor with ECU’s Brody School of Medicine.

Elmhurst Elementary School in Greenville started focusing on health this year, outfitting classrooms with exercise balls and pedals. Dr. Lazorick says more schools need to think creatively, like this, to get kids active.

She and other local health experts are working to warn parents and schools about the dangers. They recommend eating meals together, limiting technology use, getting active together, choosing water over soda or juice, and eating more fruits and veggies.

Dr. Lazorick says it’s important to visit your physician as soon as you notice a problem.

“The younger it starts, the younger all the changes in the body start that lead to future adult diseases. Diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, we’re starting to see those at younger and younger ages. So the more we can prevent it or start it later, the better,” Dr. Lazorick said.

Parents play a huge role, but Dr. Lazorick says she’d also like to see restaurants take steps to offer healthier food, drinks, and portion sizes. She says incorporating physical activity at work would also help parents help their kids.

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