January 14, 2004

National survey underscores kids' fears about obesity

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Kids across America are stressing out about their weight, worried they'll become super-sized like many of the adults they see, according to a new national survey of 9- to 13-year olds conducted by health education experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Results show 59 percent of the more than 1,100 kids surveyed have already tried to lose weight; 54 percent worry about their weight; and 52 percent agree there's a problem with kids being overweight today.

SIUC's Stephen L. Brown and David A. Birch conducted the survey on behalf of the national organization -- KidsHealth - KidsPolls -- a consortium devoted to giving kids a platform for sharing their views on health issues that affect them.


Media Advisory

To arrange interviews with the researchers, David A. Birch and Stephen L. Brown, call 618/453-2777 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Brown and Birch belong to the SIUC health education and recreation faculty. Brown is an assistant professor and Birch is the chair and a professor in the department, which belongs to the University's College of Education and Human Services.

"On the upside, children seem to be hearing the many messages and warnings being issued about obesity and all the attendant problems it can cause," says Birch.

Brown says their heightened awareness couldn't come at a better time.

Presently, about a third of all American kids are either overweight or at risk of becoming so -- three times the number from 20 years ago, according to statistics gathered by The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity contributes to such health problems as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension and may even lead to premature disabilities.

Among other findings from the recent survey:


  • Sixty-seven percent of girls say they worry about their weight, compared to 41 percent of boys.


  • While 55 percent of youngsters say they are at about the right weight, more than half of that group -- 57 percent -- admits they tried to shed a few pounds.


  • A surprising 43 percent of the kids who say they are "slightly or very underweight," also tried to lose weight.


  • Sixty percent report it's harder for overweight kids to make friends.


  • Sixty-nine percent believe healthy eating and exercise are the best ways to control weight; only 17 percent think dieting is more effective.


  • Fifty-six percent said someone has spoken to them individually about their weight.


Results were gathered last November from children visiting nine different health education centers around the country. The youngsters live in large and mid-size cities, suburbs and rural areas, and their ethnicities mirror U.S. averages.

Of those surveyed, approximately 22 percent report being slightly or very overweight and 23 percent said they weigh less than they should.

For complete survey findings and methodology, visithttp://nahec.org/KidsPoll/.

For more information on KidsHealth KidsPoll, contact Madeleine Boyer at 302/651-6786 or send e-mail toKidsPoll@KidsHealth.org.


About the KidsHealth-Kids Poll

A project of the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC), the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media (creators of KidsHealth.org), and Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Health Education and Recreation (project researchers), the KidsHealth KidsPoll gives children a national platform to share their views on health-related issues that affect them. Throughout the school year, regular KidsHealth KidsPolls will reveal kids' opinions on issues such as bullying, stress, and peer pressure. For more information about the KidsHealth KidsPoll, please visit http://nahec.org/KidsPoll/.


About the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC)

NAHEC is the national association and network of nonprofit health education centers (HECs) and of other organizations that support children's health education and provide products and services to HECs. NAHEC member centers reached over 3 million children, teachers, and parents in 2003.

HECs use life-size exhibits, advanced audio-visual technology, and specialized, interactive instructional techniques not generally found in conventional classrooms.

The curriculum is designed to support school-mandated areas of study. With programs like "Blood & Guts," Hummers outfitted with removable organs, and playgrounds modeled after anatomy parts, you'll see why former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop proclaimed that health education centers "put pizzazz in prevention." For more information about NAHEC, please visit http://nahec.org.


About KidsHealth and the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media

The Nemours Center for Children's Health Media is a unique physician-led editorial group that specializes in developing age-appropriate online, print, and video educational media for parents, kids, and teens.

It creates KidsHealth.org, the most visited website devoted to children's health. In addition to medical information, KidsHealth features articles on emotional, behavioral, and developmental issues of interest to all three audiences.

KidsHealth was chosen as the sole U.S. nominee in the e-health category of the 2003 World Summit Awardª, which is part of the United Nations' World Summit on the Information Society. Recently, it won the Pirelli Award forBest Educational Multimedia.

The Nemours Center for Children's Health Media offers the nation's only fellowships in children's health media -- providing physicians with the opportunity to learn how to improve family health through effective communications. It is a division of The Nemours Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit organizations devoted to children's health.

For more information about KidsHealth, please visithttp://KidsHealth.org.


About Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Department of Health Education & Recreation

Researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Health Education and Recreation conduct the KidsHealth KidsPoll. The research team for this project is led by Steve Brown and David Birch, faculty members in the Department of Health Education and Recreation.

The department offers a bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree in health education and a bachelor's and master's degree in recreation. The health education program is recognized nationally as a leader in school health education and graduate-level teaching and research.

Graduates of the program are in health education leadership positions across the country. The department includes 11 health education faculty members and six recreation faculty members.

For more information about SIUC, please visithttp://www.siuc.edu.