Many parents don't view childhood obesity as a significant health concern

Childhood obesity is a bigger problem now than ever before. The number of young people who are now significantly overweight has never been so high. Despite the fact that obesity is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes, a new survey suggests that few parents are concerned about whether or not their child is overweight.

Only 54 percent of parents told a group of researchers from Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City that it is very important to seek medical attention for their children's weight problems. Looking more closely at the numbers, the survey suggests that many parents may not understand how dangerous childhood obesity is.

A total of 81 percent of respondents said they would seek immediate care if their child started showing symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, 80 percent and 74 percent said they would take their son or daughter to a doctor if they exhibited signs of asthma or learning disabilities, respectively. Obesity is known to contribute to all these health problems.

"Despite the attention on the obesity epidemic, the disconnect found among parents regarding the long-term outcomes associated with childhood obesity is concerning," said Sarah Hampl, MD, medical director of weight management services at Children's Mercy. "Obese children have both immediate and future health problems, including hypertension, heart disease and diabetes."

She added that parents may need help understanding the connection between obesity and type 2 diabetes. A majority of survey respondents recognized that they had the best opportunity to prevent their children from becoming obese. However, many simply failed to view the condition as a high health priority.

In order to help more young people live healthy lives and avoid conditions like type 2 diabetes, the research team said parents need to do a better job of setting positive examples when it comes to diet.