Delaware’s kids pick up healthier habits but don’t dent obesity rate

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     (Images via Nemours' Delaware Survey of Children's Health)

    (Images via Nemours' Delaware Survey of Children's Health)

    Too many Delaware kids are overweight, and too few of their parents realize it.

    The director of Delaware’s division of public health — pediatrician Karyl Rattay — said a new survey of children’s health in the First State suggests an improvement in healthy habits.

    “Children appear to be consuming less sugar-sweetened beverages, which is great. We’re also seeing a slight increase in physical activity among our children,” Rattay said.

    And 90 percent of Delaware parents reported that their newborn was breastfed — for at least a little while. That’s up from about 75 percent in previous years.

    That’s good news, but Rattay said those healthy habits have not translated into a drop in obesity. The number of overweight and obese children in Delaware is holding steady at 36 percent.

    Dr. Colleen Witherell cares for kids at Nemours Pediatrics in Wilmington.

    When kids come in for their annual checkup, Witherell sometimes swings her computer screen around to show parents their child’s height and weight. Moms and dads are often surprised their child is obese, she said.

    “Parents will say, ‘We’re just all thick,'” she said.

    That becomes the family norm.

    “That image of the cute baby with the really chubby cheeks and rolls of fat is considered healthy, when now, over time, we are realizing that some of those children continue to keep those rolls as they get older, and, at that point, it’s not healthy,” Witherell said.

    She said she hopes Delaware will work to create more places for kids to exercise.

    About 60 percent of surveyed parents say their neighborhood is definitely safe enough for children to play outside. That leaves lots of kids in communities where they can’t go outside.

    “It’s hard to tell a child to get out and get exercise if they aren’t in an area where they can do that safely,” she said.

    Delaware is creating more opportunities at school and in day care centers for children to make healthy choices, Rattay said, as part of the state’s strategy against obesity.

    The research was conduced in 2014 and 2015 by Nemours Health & Prevention Services. The investigators surveyed parents with children from newborn to age 17.

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    Nemours Delaware Survey of Children s Health Key Findings (PDF)

    Nemours Delaware Survey of Children s Health Key Findings (Text)

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