Childhood obesity may be the biggest public health problem facing West Virginia. A comment made about it this week unfortunately seems to reflect the opinons of many in our state - and makes it clear why the challenge is so difficult to overcome.
About 29 percent of Mountain State children fit the clinical definition of "obese," according to a group that screens youngsters. Obesity is defined as being heavier than 95 percent of the norm for American children of the same ages and heights.
A team led by West Virginia pediatric cardiologist Bill Neal has weighed and measured more than 135,000 children in the state since 1998. Its statistics are comprehensive and troubling.
During the 2010-11 school year, about one-fourth of the obese fifth-graders in the state also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. A substantial number were in early stages of type 2 diabetes. If they continue to be substantially overweight, they will face a variety of health problems, including heart disease, that might not have been factors had they maintained healthy weights.
Another WVU professor had this take on the childhood obesity crisis: "If that many fifth-graders suddenly developed a deadly condition like bird flu, parents would be standing in courthouses all over the state demanding that something be done," commented sports and exercise physiology professor Sam Zizzi.
Sadly, he's probably right. But government already does more than its share, ranging from requirements for healthy school lunches to laws on nutrition labeling for food. The most important "something" that can be done about childhood obesity has nothing to do with government.
It involves parents taking more responsibility for their children's eating habits and choices. Clearly, not enough moms and dads in the Mountain State are doing that.
Childhood obesity will continue to be a crisis in West Virginia until more parents do a better job of ... parenting.