With the advent of the school year, the need to link school, community and family efforts to combat a modern day scourge of children is once again literally brought to the table.
Over the last 40 years, obesity rates have skyrocketed across all age groups, increasing more than four times in children aged six to 11, with almost a third, or 23 million, of children and teenagers overweight or obese.
To try to get a grip on what measures can be taken to prevent or ameliorate this epidemic, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health developed the Caloric Calculator (CaloricCalculator.org). This Calculator is a tool for educators, administrators, teachers, parents or others concerned with children’s health. The user can access the calculator, choose a population, such as middle school girls and see the obesity percentage for that group. It then indicates the average calorie count needed to be eliminated daily to bring the obesity rates for that group to that of the year 2000 or the 1970s. Fourteen methods of reducing obesity are charted, including forgoing a can of soda, adding a set time of physical education or reducing time spent watching television. Each method is reflected on a graph showing the affect on obesity for that group.
“While childhood obesity can sometimes seem like an insurmountable problem, there are many proven interventions that can make a difference. The Caloric Calculator shows that, when implemented in combination, they add up to what is needed,” said Claire Wang, MD, ScD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Management, and the project’s lead researcher.