<!--:es-->US rate of childhood obesity to hit one in five by 2010<!--:-->

US rate of childhood obesity to hit one in five by 2010

WASHINGTON – Unless public health takes urgent measures, one in five children in the United States will be obese by the year 2010, the Institute of Medicine warned in a report.

Currently, one third of American children are obese or at risk of becoming so. The rate of childhood obesity has jumped from 16 percent in 2002, to 17.1 percent in 2004 and will reach 20 percent in four years, the report said.

“The good news is that Americans have begun to recognize that childhood obesity is a serious public health problem, and initiatives to address it are under way,” said Jeffrey Koplan, who heads an institute committee on preventing childhood obesity.

The committee has held meetings around the United States, including Kansas, Georgia and California, to review public health actions on the matter and has estimated that progress will be slow and in need of systematic monitoring.

“Positive changes in the health outcomes of children and youth, as measured by body mass index, will require years of sustained efforts, systematic evaluation, and adequate resources,” the committee said.

Actions that have begun and that need evaluation include improved food and beverage programs at school.

From the food industry to the advertising sector, the report said, there have been constructive initiatives to deal with the obesity problem, including playground equipment for parks and shopping malls that encourage children to exercise.

Entertainment companies have begun granting licenses to fruit and vegetable distributors to promote their good-eating habits to children through cartoon characters.