We Are Killing the Kids

The tsunami that threatens to swamp the world’s health care systems is not about aging Boomers. What is rolling inexorably our way will make the temporary wave of that aging cohort look like a low tide. We are killing the kids.

Two of the major bullets fired at our kids are diabetes and obesity and their long-term consequences.


A study published April 29th by the New England Journal of Medicine raises the specter that Type 2 diabetes in children is virtually uncontrollable through drugs or lifestyle interventions. They predict some combination of drugs and possibly insulin dependency lie ahead for these young people.

Type 2 diabetes was an adult disease until 10 or 15 years ago. Generally linked with poor diet and lack of exercise, it could often be kept under control through lifestyle changes. Now millions of children have been diagnosed with what used to be called “adult-onset diabetes.”

In Canada, where Type 2 diabetes in First Nations communities was virtually unknown forty years ago, children as young eight are being diagnosed. The same thing is happening in countries around the world, as people move from traditional foods and embrace a western diet.

The health care implications are horrifying. Among long-term complications of Type 2 diabetes are cardiovascular disease, retinal disease and possible loss of vision, coronary artery disease, neuropathy (nerve damage, usually in the legs and feet), and kidney disease.

The earlier diabetes strikes, the greater the costs, both in dollars and in quality of life.


Childhood obesity is often linked to early onset of Type 2 diabetes, but even those children who manage to avoid it can be hit with other weight-related health problems. These include some cancers (especially uterus, cervix, ovaries, breast, colon, rectum and prostate), high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, depression, skin problems, infertility and osteoarthritis.

Michelle Obama focused on childhood obesity early in her tenure as First Lady. She challenged the food and beverage industries to reduce the excess sugar and salt in their products. She might as well have thrown a party for them, for all the support she received.

Industry’s response was to step up lobbying efforts. A new report from Reuters details just how effective they were.

Lobbying records analyzed by Reuters reveal that the industries more than doubled their spending in Washington during the past three years. In the process, they largely dominated policymaking — pledging voluntary action while defeating government proposals aimed at changing the nation’s diet, dozens of interviews show.

The Reuters report points out the Center for Science in the Public Interest spent a grand total of $70,000 lobbying for healthier food last year. CSPI is one of the most effective consumer-interest organizations in the States, but their $70,000 represents what those who oppose stricter guidelines spend every 13 hours.

Congress did not support the First Lady. Neither did the White House. When Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) chided the White House for going “wobbly in the knees,” senior policy advisor and assistant chef Sam Kass responded, “We are incredibly proud of the commitments that many food companies have made…”

Right, and I have a bridge to sell you, Mr. Kass. Voluntary commitments have never been more than public relations proclamations for an industry that places profits over the health of people or the planet.

Other Ways of Killing Our Kids

We did not set out to kill our children, but that is what we are doing. Obesity and diabetes are end results of industry and regulatory systems that refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences of their decisions.

They are natural outcomes of creating environments where physical activity is discouraged. They stem from the widespread use of harmful chemicals. They are promoted through advertising junk food to children and government’s unwillingness to regulate it. They are linked to subsidies that support commodity crops instead of vegetables.

We even export the conditions that are killing our children, as Dr. David Wallinga and his colleagues at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy point out in Exporting Obesity: How U.S. farm and trade policy is transforming the Mexican food environment. The report focuses on one country, but the story is similar around the globe, and at home.

Drawing a Line in the Sand

We all draw our own lines in the sand. We bump up against something we find intolerable and say, “No more.”

Killing our children is intolerable. It is time for us to draw a line in the sand. We can insist companies stop undermining our childrens health, stop poisoning the environment, stop misusing water, soil and air.

We adults have not been able to do that for ourselves. We have caved in to moneyed interests and allowed ourselves to be seduced by false promises. We have allowed governments to slash needed services and oversight.

Let’s show more backbone. Let’s stop killing the kids.

Related Care2 Stories

Treatment for Childhood Diabetes Largely Ineffective

What Gross Ingredients Are Hiding in Your Food?

Obesity in Boys Up 29 Percent: Blame the Internet?

Are We Winning the War Against Childhood Obesity?

War on Obesity Hits School Vending Machines


Photo 1 from tgolf_69 via Flickr Creative Commons; photos 2 and 3: Thinkstock

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Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago

very sad

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

Parents, teach your kids HEALTHY eating. it is NOT hard. My son RARELY gets sweets. You aren't the "bad guy" for occasionally saying "no" to your kids. It is your job. You are only opening the door to bad health and premature death by allowing them to eat when and what they want. Grow a spine and FIX THIS

federico bortoletto

Grazie dell'articolo.

tia pearson
tia pearson3 years ago

Some things take a community such as clean air legislation, GMO labeling, keeping arsenic and other toxic chemicals out of our food and clothing including organic, and making sure parents have the right to not vaccinate their kids without getting put in jail or having their kids taken away from them.

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson3 years ago

I watch over my own childrens health. That is the job of the parents NOT the community.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago

I don't understand parents who allow their kids to drink soda or fruit drinks just to name 2 things loaded with sugar. It's all about the diet and feeding nutritious meals to all family members.

Michael Kirkby
Michael Kirkby3 years ago

Why the increase in diabetes; cancers; and other afflictions such as Alzheimers; ADHD just to mention a couple? The cause lies in fast food, sodas and junk food [some do call it comfort food] and a lack of excercise. Look at the increase in obesity. I'm not saying the prior decades were any better than they are today. We didn't have the populations coagulated in cities like we do today. We didn't have the number of automobiles; trucks; airplanes and other modes of travel like today. We have had eighty years of pollution in many forms that are slowly killing us off. Then there's the Big Corporations who don't seem to care as long as the indentured wage slaves produce at whatever costs to themselves and profit is maximized in the shortest term. Don't kid yourself about unions either. They are a business and only those at the top levels see the maximum profits and benefits.
It's all bread and circus to those at the top. Methinks our problems have increased due to deliberate creation of such conditions. It's time for the sheep to wake up and get a bellewether.

Jos� Mar�

Thanks for the info

Lilithe Magdalene

Actually Jane, You are incorrect and brainwashed. If you look at aboriginal diet, especially ones of first nations, you will see that fat and meat are core to the diet when diabetes was unheard of. The problem IS (and you ARE correct in this) sugar - but also grains, which turn to sugar in the blood - no matter how "high fiber" the grains are. Humans are not meant to eat fruit year around, or sugar or grains. A high meat and fat diet is actually what humans have evolved on over millions of years. Time to get back to this diet.

And Jonanthan - human instinct is a fail? Really? If that were so, then aboriginal people would have the same diseases as found in our modern society - heart disease, cancer and diabetes - they did not. The human instinct knows what it needs - we have just replaced those natural instinctual desires with very poor substitutes.