By Al Cross and Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
Many Kentucky parents don’t realize that their children are obese or overweight, or at least aren’t willing to acknowledge it. That is the obvious conclusion to draw from the latest results of the Kentucky Parent Survey, released Tuesday by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
The poll found that only 14 percent of Kentucky parents say their child weighs too much, but the National Survey of Children’s Health found that 37 percent of Kentucky children are overweight or obese. Conversely, 76 percent of parents in the poll think their child’s weight is about right, but the national survey found that only 58 percent of Kentucky kids have healthy weight.
The Kentucky Parent Survey, taken by land-line and cell telephone from July 19 to Aug. 22 by the Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia, interviewed 1,006 Kentucky parents, step-parents, grandparents, foster parents or other legal guardians of children in Kentucky selected at random. The statistical margin of error for that sample size is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll also found that 56 percent of Kentucky children are watching more than the maximum daily recommended amount of “screen time” – watching television, playing video games or using the Internet – and that 59 percent drink sugar-sweetened beverages every day. Both are major factors in childhood obesity, research has found, and experts recommend no more than two hours of screen time a day and no sugar-sweetened drinks at all.
“Parents can help reduce this risk by encouraging healthy behaviors for their children,” said Dr. Susan Zepeda, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.“ Our children’s habits and behaviors impact their health today and shape their quality of life as they grow. When kids eat poorly and don’t get enough physical activity, it increases their risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. This poll data helps us understand what parents think about the behaviors that are so critical to health.”
The Kentucky Parent Survey also found that only 56 percent of Kentucky parents said their child got “enough” fruits and vegetables every day during the preceding week, and 66 percent of parents reported their child got “enough” physical activity every day during the preceding week. It also found that elementary and high-school students often get less than the recommended amount of sleep per day (chart).
The survey did not define “enough.” The foundation noted that one strategy to reduce childhood obesity in Kentucky is “5-2-1-0,” reflecting experts’ recommendations that each day, children should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, have no more than two hours of screen time, engage in one hour of physical activity, and drink zero sugar-sweetened beverages.