Childhood obesity affects more than 40 million kids worldwide

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COLUMBIA - Childhood obesity is a growing issue around the world, but mid-Missouri is in the position to become healthier in every demographic.

Eating healthier and getting more exercise are ways that have been presented as solutions for years, but living a healthier life has proven to be difficult for many families.

Healthier food options are now being offered at schools, but that doesn't mean kids are willing to try new foods they aren't sure they like or not. 

"The number of students eating school lunch has dropped, and students are throwing away the 'healthy' items because they don't like the way they taste," Michelle Baumstark, community relations director for Columbia Public Schools, said.

Cassie McClellan is a registered dietitian, and she had some advice for parents trying to help their kids eat healthier and try new foods.

"One really good way to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables is putting them into smoothies," McClellan said. "Sometimes I'll add a little bit of spinach or kale, and the kids are completely fine with it."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation compiled and ranked the health data from 114 counties in Missouri. Overall, Boone County ranked as the healthiest county with low scores in several categories.

The categories involving health behaviors include: adult smoking, adult obesity, food environment index, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted disease and teen births.

Callaway County ranked 78 out of 114. Cole County ranked 14th on the same scale.

Exercise is an important part of living a healthier life and preventing childhood obesity.

Physical education teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School Denise Smith said there are easy ways to get kids and whole families involved in healthy activity. 

"Exercise can be fun, it doesn't have to be something where you sign the up for a team," Smith said. "It starts with the family. What they see is really important for them to see the whole family going on a bike ride, the whole family going in the backyard and playing volleyball."

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity released a report with six main recommendations for governments, but some of these recommendations can be applied to everyday life.

Those recommendations are: promote intake of healthy foods, promote physical activity, preconception and pregnancy care, early childhood diet and physical activity, health, nutrition and physical activity for school-aged children, and weight management.

Missouri ranks as the 20th most obese state in the nation at 30.2 percent as of 2014. 

The rate of obese children ages two to four in low-income families was 12.9 percent, down from 13.9 percent in 2008. That ranked Missouri 30 out of the 41 states with available information.

The obesity rate for children ten to 15 was 13.5 percent as of 2011. This ranked them at 36 out of 51.

In 2013 a survey found that in Missouri 14.9 percent of high school students were obese. The survey ranked Missouri as eight out of 43 states.  

The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity presented its report on childhood obesity to the World Health Organization. The report showed that worldwide of all of the children ages five and below "at least 41 million children in this age group are obese or overweight."

Obesity in children is most prevalent in developing countries, but obesity in children and adults in the U.S. is becoming an increasing problem. 

Gallup Poll showed, as of 2014, 35.1 percent of American adults were overweight while 27.7 percent were classified as obese.

In a study released in The Bone & Joint Journal published in January 2016 called obesity "a worldwide epidemic." 

The study said, "In the United States alone, in the past 20 years obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in children. Most alarming is that the heaviest BMI (Body Mass Index) categories are increasing at the fastest rates."