Washington state

Almost 1 in 4 state kids fat, study says

Nearly one out of every four eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders in Washington are overweight or obese, according to a new University of Washington report that shows that the state continues to reflect an alarming trend of American kids getting fatter younger.

The report, released today, also shows that many of children's weight challenges begin at birth.

Infants born today are chubbier than those born 20 years ago, according to the report by the UW's Human Services Policy Center. And nearly half of Washington mothers who gave birth in 2003 were overweight or obese before the pregnancy, which increases the baby's odds of becoming obese or diabetic.

An expensive problem

In addition to being bad for people's health, obesity exacts a huge public-health price. In Washington, four obesity-related chronic illnesses - cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lower respiratory disease - account for more than half of all adult deaths. Public money pays for nearly half of the estimated $1.3 billion in obesity-related medical expenses in Washington.

People's own decisions are a major factor. But another root cause is that American society has "made it easier to make unhealthy choices," says Lorna Stone, a vice president of the Washington Health Foundation, a Seattle nonprofit organization.