Obstructive sleep apnea, fatty liver disease and polycystic ovary syndrome were once rare in children.

But as American children continue to get bigger, they are increasingly suffering from such adult ailments, says http://www.peds.arizona.edu/faculty/bio_faculty.asp?FacultyListID=106"> Dr. Tracey Kurtzman, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Arizona and a practicing pediatrician.

"This is our youth we're talking about," Kurtzman said. "This is our future generation and we are seeing a lot of health effects of obesity."

As a pediatric resident in 2000, Kurtzman learned very little about Type 2 diabetes because it was so rare in children.

And prior to that, when Kurtzman was in medical school, there wasn't much information about childhood obesity. But that has changed.

In the past decade of working as a pediatrician, Kurtzman has had to re-train herself.

With each year, she was seeing more children with conditions being aggravated by obesity, like asthma and joint problems.

And then there were the children - mostly adolescents - developing  Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes puts children at risk for shorter lifespans.

In response to the shift she observed in her patients, Kurtzman developed a  childhood obesity curriculum for her medical students at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine.

The section includes teaching doctors-to-be about the factors that contribute to childhood obesity.

Those causes include behavior, environment and genetics.

There is a population in Southern Arizona at http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/pima/obesity/obesity.htm"> higher risk due to genetics — American Indians.

Still, experts note that genetic susceptibility needs to exist in conjunction with environmental and behavioral factors to significantly impact weight.

Such factors would include a high-calorie food supply and minimal physical activity.

The genetic characteristics of the human population have not changed in the last three decades but the prevalence of overweight school-aged children has tripled.

Twenty-four percent of low-income children between the ages of two and five years old living in Arizona are overweight or obese.

The obesity rate among Arizona adults increased by 80 percent from 1990 to 2002.

"All you need to do is go to the mall to see what Americans look like," Kurtzman said. "We are not a healthy group of people."

A http://azstarnet.com/news/local/vmix_2eb22a34-4266-11df-9bf7-001cc4c03286.html"> special report about childhood obesity in Southern Arizona will run in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, April 11.