Southern Arizona children are suffering from adult afflictions — and doctors blame it on a troubling surge in childhood obesity.

In Arizona 31 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are overweight or obese, experts say.

Lifestyle, diet and genetics play a role, but the biggest common denominator among them is socioeconomic.

“It’s an amazingly paradoxical problem,” says Dr. Tracey Kurtzman, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine. “If you think about poor people in the rest of the world, they are emaciated and skinny and impoverished and malnourished.

Here, our poor population is malnourished with too much.”

Cheap food is often unhealthy. There’s no Arizona law mandating physical education in schools. High-crime neighborhoods mean running and playing outdoors is discouraged. Gym memberships or club sports are not feasible for families challenged to provide basic necessities.

In a special report in the Arizona Daily Star Sunday and Monday, experts discuss the issue and offer solutions.