GAPA Health Watch: Will Our Kids Outlive Us?

40% of Georgia kids are overweight or obese and that’s one of the highest rates in the nation. Some experts are even saying that this generation of children may not outlive their parents.

Online PR News – 02-October-2012 –Two of Georgia’s biggest health problems are type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. These two diseases are at the top of the list mainly because Georgians are overweight. That’s everyone, not just the adults. In fact, 40% of Georgia kids are overweight or obese and that’s one of the highest rates in the nation. Some experts are even saying that this generation of children may not outlive their parents.

The Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) is committed to helping patients develop better health habits and break the cycle of obesity in their families. GAPA members can provide the tools and resources for any person, at any age, to improve their fitness and overall health.

“People don’t often realize that those few extra pounds can have a big impact on their bodies,” said Tina Hood, PA-C, MPAS. Hood is GAPA’s president and practices in Cobb, GA. “Physician Assistants are highly focused on both patient wellness and patient education. We strive to get to know our patients as people and want them to be as healthy as they can be.”

It’s Just a Few Extra Pounds
Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height (usually 20% or more over an individual's ideal body weight). Being overweight means having an excess of body weight, by comparison to set standards. Being obese means having an abnormally high proportion of body fat. So, someone can be overweight without being obese, such as a bodybuilder or other athlete who has a lot of muscle. However, many people who are overweight are also obese.

Overweight and obesity ranges are typically determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat. For example:
• An adult who is 5’ 9” and weighing 125-168 pounds, may have a BMI between 18.5 and 25, which is considered normal
• An adult who is 5’ 9” and weighing 169 to 202 pounds, may have a BMI between 25 and 29.9, which is considered overweight
• An adult who is 5’ 9” and weighing 203 lbs or more, may have a BMI of 30 or higher, which is considered obese

BMI calculations for teens and children are determined similarly but also include age and growth factors. Both calculators are available online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
• BMI Calculator for Children and Teens: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/
• Adult MBI Calculator: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_BMI/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html

According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults and one-sixth of children in America are obese. In the past 20 years, obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children. In 2010, the State of Georgia had an obesity rate of approximately 30% and exceeded the Healthy People 2010 national goal for children and youth in every age, sex, race and ethnic group.

The Consequences of Being Overweight and Obese
There is a direct link between obesity and developing serious health risks including coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in Georgia. Diabetes is also a strong risk factor for heart disease.

“Obesity can also increase the risks of certain types of cancers, stroke, osteoarthritis, hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides), liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems and gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility),” said Ben Taylor, PA-C, PhD. Taylor is GAPA’s public education chairperson and works in multiple urgent and emergency departments in Georgia and South Carolina. “And, these aren’t just problems for adults.”

A recent study by the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that twenty minutes of daily, vigorous physical activity over just three months can reduce a child's risk of diabetes as well as his total body fat - including dangerous, deep abdominal fat. But while the study concluded that 20 minutes was good, 40 minutes works even better.

“The research proves that longer periods of exercise provide a greater benefit to our children’s health and that increased physical activity among overweight and obese children could actually stave off the onset of type 2 diabetes," Taylor added. “While this is encouraging, it is unlikely children will get those 40 minutes of exercise in school. Parents should look into after-hours sports programs or better yet, develop a fitness plan for the entire family.”

Get Fit with GAPA

GAPA members are committed to helping patients develop better eating and fitness habits and are also fostering better health habits on a community-wide basis. GAPA has teamed with the Georgia State Parks to provide free "health check" stations at “Tons of Fun” events throughout the state, such as Coast Fest, scheduled for Saturday, October 6, at the Georgia DNR (Department of Natural Resources) Regional Headquarters in Brunswick, GA.

National Physician Assistant (PA) Week, which is observed every year from October 6-12, is also acknowledged in a big way in Georgia. This is a time to support, celebrate and recognize PAs, and increase public awareness of the PA profession. GAPA kicked off its observation at the State Capitol, where Governor Nathan Deal proclaimed October 6 as PA Day in Georgia. GAPA is also running radio commercials and has placed billboards around the state to increase awareness of its “Get Fit with GAPA” patient health initiatives. And through the joint "Rx for Fitness" program with Georgia’s State Park system, Physician Assistants are prescribing healthy hikes in the great outdoors to their patients, who can turn in their “prescriptions” for free park passes.

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The mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants is to promote high quality, cost-effective, accessible healthcare as part of a physician-directed PA/physician team in Georgia. Learn more about GAPA’s health initiatives, “Get Fit with GAPA” and “Rx for Fitness,” at gapa.net/fit. GAPA also offers “Find a PA,” a free searchable database for healthcare consumers offering listings of Physician Assistant providers throughout the State. For additional information about how PAs make healthcare more affordable and accessible in Georgia, please visit GAPA.net and click on “Patients.”

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