East Texas experts on childhood obesity: 'Little things make a difference'

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Last week, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease. Among Americans age 20 and older, over 150 million are obese.

Studies show that the obesity epidemic in children continues to grow but local officials are hoping the classification will lead to a healthier generation. East Texas News explains how the diagnosis is bringing focus to the issue.

Huntington residents Tray and Keisha Pharris spent their Friday afternoon playing tag with their children.

"We find activities that the kids enjoy, my husband and I set a good example by educating our kids," said mom Keisha Pharris.

It's just one of the many ways they encourage their kids to live a healthy lifestyle.

"You're going to prevent the obesity from on setting in at an early age, where you're not having to overcome a childhood of sedentary lifestyles or bad eating habits," Keisha Pharris said.

Just last week, the American Medical Association classified obesity as a disease, advancing obesity treatment and prevention.

"Physicians and health care physicians are having to spend a lot more time working on and addressing the issue of obesity specifically child hood obesity," said Amy McLeod, a registered dietician.

According to the centers for disease control and prevention the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Health officials say it's up to adults to lead by example.

"Little things make a difference, choosing to exercise, getting off the couch, turning off the video games, just getting out and doing stuff," said Dr. Jeff Glass.

"Kids don't buy their own food, we provide the food, we provide the lifestyle," Amy said.

Glass says the new classification will help those in need receive treatment and raise awareness about healthy living.

"If you have asthma you don't want to live coughing and wheezing and not being able to do anything, if you have obesity you don't want to live struggling and being at high risks," Glass said.

Keisha Harris hopes her influence will ensure a long life for her children.

"It's very important to develop these habits early on so they'll carry them into their adulthood," Keisha Pharris said.

And officials say there is no simple fix to obesity but believe the classification could mean a healthier generation.

Health officials say children that are obese are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

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