June 2012

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Study: U.S. Obesity Rate To Increase 33 Percent By 2030

By Brian McCurdy, Senior Editor

By the year 2030, the rate of obesity in the United States will increase by an estimated 33 percent while the prevalence of severe obesity will rise by 130 percent, according to a recent study.

   The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System gathered between 1990 and 2008. By 2030, the study’s non-linear regression model projects that 42 percent of Americans will be obese.

   “I’m actually quite alarmed at how many more obese children I see now,” says Ron Raducanu, DPM, the President and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Pediatrics. “Most (parents) haven’t a clue about how obesity can affect their children over the year.”

   Marc A. Brenner, DPM, says obesity is a “major problem” for podiatrists and emphasizes its link with diabetes. In addition, he calls the fact that kids are becoming obese at a rapid rate a “dangerous sign.” Dr. Brenner advocates having a better diet and Russell Volpe, DPM, cites “fighting the convenience of fast food and sugary sodas.”
“The problem is when (kids) go home to their houses, they eat fast food,” says Dr. Brenner, who is in private practice in Glendale, N.Y.

   Raising awareness of the dangers of obesity starts at home and in the schools, according to Dr. Raducanu. He advises teaching parents about healthy alternatives to what they give their children for school lunches as well as getting vending machines and McDonald’s out of the schools.

   Tracey Vlahovic, DPM, concurs. “We have to really focus on pediatric obesity and the quality of school lunches, increasing activity levels and decreasing TV and video game time, and encouraging family meals instead of takeout,” notes Dr. Vlahovic, an Associate Professor at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine.

   Dr. Raducanu and Dr. Volpe also advise getting patients off the couch and outside playing. Dr. Brenner suggests more physical education in classrooms and walking every day.

   The study researchers did note several factors that could slow the growth of obesity, such as access to recreational facilities, obesity education programs and urban design improvements.

   To stem the tide of obesity, Dr. Vlahovic advocates having workplace programs, whether it is a gym on site or a Weight Watchers-like program that is available to employees.

   As for solutions in podiatric practice, Dr. Vlahovic also says DPMs can measure body mass index in the office and have a discussion with patients about the impact that extra weight has on the lower extremity as well as the risk of developing diabetes. Likewise, Dr. Raducanu emphasizes the importance of educating kids on the diabetic foot.

   Dr. Volpe says podiatrists should also treat children with foot imbalances and abnormalities so that a weak or poorly functioning foot is not an additional excuse for lethargy and inaction.

   “Many kids ‘self-select’ out of being active because they have lax, pronated feet that function poorly in sustained weight-bearing and athletic activities,” says Dr. Volpe, a Professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Pediatrics at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. “Improve foot function and you will improve the chances of these kids being able to move comfortably and enthusiastically and, in so doing, help fight the growing obesity epidemic in children.”

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