Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that one in five Latino parents are not told if their child is overweight. Shutterstock/klublu

Obesity is a public health epidemic that impacts both adults and children -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed, as published in JAMA Pediatrics, that one out of every three children in the U.S. is considered overweight or obese. According to findings from Arizona State University, Hispanics in the U.S. have high obesity rates, with an estimated 55 percent qualifying to fit in that category.

With any public health concern, educating and informing become the key foundations for fighting the cause. But according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center, one in five Latino parents are not directly told by their child's pediatrician that their kids are obese. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers further noticed that if a language barrier existed between doctor and parent, then the topic of weight, let alone obesity, was not touched upon.

"During primary care visits with overweight children in which there is a language barrier, it is incredibly important to provide a trained medical interpreter or bilingual provider, and use a growth chart to communicate that the child is overweight," said Dr. Christy Turer, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and first author of the study, in a university news release.

The information gap is especially troubling considering that earlier this year, a study made some interesting findings surrounding how children perceive their weight. Conducted by the CDC, the new study found that heavy and obese children did not view themselves as such -- they saw themselves as having a normal weight. This "misperception" was more commonly found in African America and Mexican-American children (34 percent) than their Caucasian peers (28 percent). Other findings from the study, include: roughly 50 percent of obese boys and more than 33 percent of obese girls believed they were at a normal rate and most children with misperceived weight status' hailed from lower-income families.

According to Science Daily, the UT Southwestern study made three crucial findings:

  • Language barriers impact communication that a child is overweight.
  • Many overweight Latino children and their parents are not directly told that the child is overweight.
  • Few overweight Latino children and their parents receive weight-management plans, culturally relevant dietary advice, or follow-up visits to address weight.

"Special attention should be paid to directly telling Latino families that the child is overweight using family-preferred terms," said Dr. Turer. "For example, pediatricians should use phrases such as 'too much weight for his/her health' or 'demasiado peso para su salud,' and avoid terms such as 'fat,' 'heavy,' or 'obese.' "

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