Obesity No. 1 health problem for local kids, survey shows

Childhood obesity is the No. 1 pediatric health concern in the Dayton region, where more than 41 percent of children have been identified as overweight or obese, according to the 2014 Community Health Needs Assessment released Friday from Dayton Children’s Hospital.

By comparison, about a third of adolescents nationwide were considered overweight or obese in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors and hospital officials say the high rate of obesity could have long-term negative consequences for the area, such as increase in heart disease and diabetes in adults.

Avoiding those consequences is one of the primary goals of the community health assessment, which is conducted every three years and funded by the Dayton Children’s Foundation Board, according to Jim Ebert, the lead physician for the Pediatric Lipid Clinic at Dayton Children’s.

“Childhood obesity remains at the forefront of child health issues…not only because of the effects it has on the child’s health today, but because most of these issues we know carry into adulthood if they’re not properly addressed,” Ebert said.

The health assessment ranked mental health disorders and infant mortality as second and third, respectively, on the list of the most pressing child health issues in the area, based on interviews with 600 parents, a dozen family physicians and hospital data from throughout Dayton Children’s 20-county service area.

Research showed mental disorders were the most common inpatient diagnosis for kids from age 1-5, and sleep-related deaths accounted for 15 percent of the 5,418 total infant deaths in the area from 2007 to 2011.

The health assessment also included recommendations for new programs and strategies to combat pediatric health issues, including: Working with local pediatricians and other health care providers to help children and their families choose healthier lifestyles, and creating a center for pediatric mental health to increase access to mental health services.

The health assessment has been a vital tool in helping health care providers identify the problems hurting kids the most, said John Slaughenhaupt, Dayton Children’s Foundation board chair.

“We began to fund this study 12 years ago because of the need for regional data regarding our children’s health,” Slaughenhaupt said. “Before Dayton Children’s began this process, organizations focusing on programs for children in the 20-county service area had to rely on national data or incomplete or anecdotal data.”