Bullying parents' top concern for obese kids

As the new school year begins, many parents with overweight and obese children are worried about how their kids will be treated by other students on the playground and in the classroom.

Bullying is a major concern among parents with overweight and obese children ages 6 to13, and these parents are much more likely than parents with healthy weight children to rate bullying as a top health issue for kids, according to a report released today by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"We found that parents with overweight or obese children actually view bullying as a greater problem than childhood obesity," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children's Health. "Since bullying is known to be a problem for children with increased weight, bullying prevention programs will need to be mindful of obesity as a potential trigger for bullying behavior, and of parents' concerns surrounding this issue."

And parents aren't taking childhood obesity lightly. The National Poll on Children's Health recently reported that parents across the country now rank childhood obesity as their No. 1 health concern for kids.

While parents are having discussions with their children about limiting junk food, time spent watching TV and videos, and playing computer games, the latest National Poll on Children's Health report reveals that only about two-thirds of parents with overweight or obese children actually enforce such limits. Regardless, Davis says talking with your child about making healthier diets and increased physical activity is still a very important first step in setting the stage for a healthier lifestyle.

The National Poll on Children's Health finds:

  • 30 percent of parents with overweight or obese children do not set limits on TV, video games or computer games.
  • Parents of overweight or obese children were more likely to rate neightborhood safety and lack of opportunities for physical activity as top health concerns for kids • 39 percent of families polled include one or more overweight or obese child who is between the ages of 6 and 13.
  • 52 percent of families with obese children and 49 percent of families with overweight children include an obese parent. Only 26 percent of families with all healthy weight children report having an obese parent.

In addition to providing insight about health concerns and behaviors reported by parents with obese and overweight children, the National Poll on Children's Health report also offers a closer look at the connection between parents' weight and their children's weight.

The poll shows that children who are obese or overweight are almost twice as likely to have an obese parent than heathy weight children.

"In many families, obesity is a two-generation phenomenon among parents and their children. This trend could be the the result of genetics, or behaviors such as eating habits and physical activity that are shared among parents and their children," says Davis, associate professor of general pediatrics and internal medicine at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of public policy at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

For the complete report and podcast about poll results, visit the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health online at www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch.

Methodology: For its report, the National Poll on Children's Health used data from a national online survey conducted in April 2008 in collaboration with Knowledge Networks, Inc. The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,064 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network's online KnowledgePanel®. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About three-fourths of the sample were households with children. To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health - funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System - is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

National Bulling Prevention Awareness Week is Oct. 5-11. To learn more, visit the Pacer Center at www.pacer.org/bullying/bpaw/index.asp.

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