No. 4, October 2004
Underage & Overweight:
America’s Childhood Obesity Crisis — What Every Family Needs to Know
Author: Frances M. Berg, MS, LN
Long Island City, NY
Publication Date: 2004 Jan
Price: $24.95 US/$37.50 Canada
Suggested citation for this article: Wellesley-Cole Morgan C. Underage & overweight:
America’s childhood obesity crisis — what every family needs to know [book
review]. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2004 Oct [date cited].
Available from: URL:
Underage & Overweight: America’s Childhood Obesity Crisis —
What Every Family Needs to Know was written primarily for parents,
teachers, school administrators, doctors, nurses, other health care
professionals, and policymakers. The author, Frances M. Berg, has written a
thoroughly researched, evidence-based textbook that emphasizes the
importance of a multifaceted approach to alleviating the childhood obesity
crisis in the United States. Other books have been written about encouraging
healthy lifestyles in children and adolescents, but those authors tend to
concentrate on narrowly focused strategies (i.e. diet, exercise, diet and/or
exercise) to encourage weight loss among children and adolescents. Anyone
who is concerned about, or who has an interest in, the issues and
complexities of childhood obesity should obtain a copy of this book and keep
it as a reference text.
Berg makes a compelling and convincing argument that
“the dangers of childhood obesity are real” by highlighting the increased
risks overweight and obese American children face for obesity-related health
problems such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and psychological disorders.
She notes, for example, that from 1979 to 1981, the annual hospital costs
related to obesity among children and adolescents were $35 million; from 1997 to 1999, these costs rose to $127 million
Evidence from the literature provides powerful substantiation for Berg’s
claims about the reality of the dangers of childhood obesity and further
supports her hypothesis that American
society must take responsibility to “reclaim the health of generations to come.” One such published
work highlighting the outcomes of the dangers of childhood obesity is a
follow-up study to the Harvard Growth Study of 1922 to 1935 by Must et al
(2). The results of the study indicate that adolescent overweight is a
powerful predictor for a broad range of adverse health effects in adulthood
and that these adverse effects are independent of weight in adulthood.
Additionally, The National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney
Diseases reported that the total cost of overweight and obese
adults in the United States in 2000 was estimated at $117 billion (3). Sixty-one
billion dollars were spent on direct health costs, including preventive,
diagnostic, and treatment services, and $56 billion were spent on indirect costs,
including income lost by individuals who were unable to work due to
morbidity or injury and future income lost due to premature death.
The author has convincingly converted such complicated evidence-based
science into language that lay audiences can understand. The book is also
well referenced and clarifies the subject matter for readers by including
directly into the text definitions of key words, phrases, concepts, and
constructs. Readers will not be sidetracked by having to riffle through pages
of a glossary or dictionary to find the meanings of unfamiliar words or
phrases. Additionally, Berg has provided an excellent resource section
filled with practical information relevant to overweight and obesity.
In summary, this is a thoroughly researched and well-referenced textbook on
the crisis of childhood obesity in the United States. Berg has taken this
complex, multilayered public health problem and reduced it to more
understandable units. Berg explains that because so many different factors
contribute to the epidemic of childhood obesity, no single
solution can alleviate the crisis. To contain this epidemic, the
author asserts that all levels of society must advocate healthier lifestyles for healthier children. This book has been written to
guide society in achieving this goal.
Chodaesessie Wellesley-Cole Morgan, MPH
University of South Florida
Health Sciences Center
College of Public Health
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Preventing chronic diseases: investing wisely in health. Preventing
obesity and chronic diseases through good nutrition and physical activity
[Internet]. Atlanta (GA): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
[cited 2004 May 19]; 2003 Jul.
- Must A, Jacques PF, Dallal GE, Bajema CJ, Dietz WH.
Long-term morbidity and mortality of overweight adolescents. A
follow-up of the Harvard Growth Study of 1922 to 1935. N Engl J Med 1992 Nov 5;327(19):1350-5.
- National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Statistics related to
overweight and obesity: NIDDK weight-control information network
[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health [cited 2004 May
19]; 2003 Jul.
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