December 22, 2014

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Health concerns extend beyond classroom

Dawn Randall may be the biggest health nut at McKinley Elementary, where she is a fifth-grade teacher working to win a personal battle with obesity and to instill healthier attitudes about food and exercise in her students.

But she is not alone in seeing the need for change in Lorain County.

Medical professions in the area are seeing more and more children that can easily be categorized as overweight or obese. A problem that was unheard of years ago is now a leading cause for concerns.

“It’s a severe problem that needs to be addressed and the sooner the better,” said Dr. Matthew Schaeffer, a family medicine physician with an additional focus in sports medicine. “We are now seeing more children and even the complications of obesity in children that we typically see in adult patients  — fatty livers, high cholesterol and diabetes.”

Schaeffer’s assessment is not with just anecdotal.

The findings of the 2011 Lorain County Community Health Assessment, which was released nine months ago, flagged obesity as the top medical concern of the county. Commissioned jointly by nearly every health partner in the county as a way of gauging the overall health of residents and where resources should be focused, it looked at the weight and overall fitness of participants.

The assessment identified that 67 percent of Lorain County adults are overweight or obese based on body mass index (BMI) and the 25 percent of youth fell into the same categories.

Schaeffer said similar to adults, obesity in children is measured by body mass index (BMI). The only difference is doctors make sure weight and height fall along appropriate growth curves.

To hear about Randall’s crusade is a good thing, he said.

“As a society, there are so many ways we can work on this problem to solve,” he said. “The trend in our society has been less physical activity, more couch time in front of televisions, video games and computer screens coupled with a change in the way so many families are eating — picking foods that are fast, easy and inexpensive.”

Simply put, Schaeffer said families need to eat more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and move more — 60 minutes of activity a day.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.