The childhood obesity crisis is an epidemic that not only touches the lives of people in the United States, but it affects the lives of those all around the world. In a society where childhood obesity is a major health care concern, many do not understand the complexity of this issue whereas others just seem to ignore it. Publically it seems to fall at the wayside when it is discussed in conjunction with many of the world’s other problems. So many young children struggle with this problem as the rates of childhood obesity have increased. Childhood obesity can be defined as any child between the ages of 2 through 19 that have exceeded the 95th percentile of the Body Mass Index (BMI) in comparison of those in their peer group. BMI measures height, weight, waist circumference and skinfold to determine the amount of fat a person is storing.
Today, nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese and face major health concerns in the future (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, Lamb, & Flegal, 2010). Contributors to the obesity problem are unhealthy eating, derived from a poor diet or eating too much, not enough physical activity, and lack of information on this subject. There is not enough being done to combat this complex issue and measures have not been taken to prevent this from happening in the future. If parents are educated about what childhood obesity is, what causes it, how it causes low self-esteem, why it is such an important topic, what they can do to decrease the risk of this issue, and how this affects their children as they grow into adults, then the number of obese children will decrease in time.
There is not a single specific reason as to why childhood obesity occurs. It can stem from genetics, medical conditions, medicine taken, social behavior, mental status, environment, and demographics. For example, some medicines that are used to treat seizures can decrease the body’s ability to burn calories and medical conditions such as hypothyroidism slows down the body’s metabolism, one of the main functions needed to maintain a healthy weight. An example of a mental health condition is as a result of how people become anxious, upset, or stressed and turn to overeating for escape of their problems. Obesity can also derive from our genetic code (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008).
Just as genes determine the color of our hair, eyes, the dimples in our cheeks, they also contribute to the amount of fat you store and where you store it. The way foods are processed and chemically altered can cause genes to mutate, altering the way children grow, process, and store products consumed. According to a study conducted by Jane Wardel, Susan Carnell, Claire Haworth and Robert Plomin(2008), there is a strong influence between obesity in children and their genes. Furthermore, it states that the onset of this epidemic has not changed the results, it only verifies that obesity is a health concern. It shows that the environment plays a small part in this health care issue but the genetic codes given to us by our family increases a child’s risk of becoming obese.
It is impossible to change our genetic code; however, long term weight control and community involvement are needed to decrease obesity in children that have this high genetic risk. This can have other adverse affects as children fall victim to low self-esteem. Of the reasons given, one cause does not overshadow the other as they all can affect the livelihood of our children. Reasons listed above prove there should be great concern on any occasion; however there is an emphasis on the lack of attaining insight to and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This pivotal point of controlling a healthy lifestyle is most likely the key essential part to preventing childhood obesity and overall well being (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Today, we live in a society where physical appearance is a vital part of everyday living. Through media and social acceptance, children are lead to believe that you can obtain the highest level of beauty by being thin.
This acceptance can alter self perception and cause a serious issue in self-esteem. Self-esteem is an important because its outcome will shape the rest of their lives. It has influence on how they act, their mental health, their interaction with society, how they engage with their peers, and how they feel about themselves. It is already difficult that children have to go through the phases of life to get to adulthood, but when you add obesity into it, the results may be negative. During the elementary and secondary school education phase, children are required to participate in physical activities that many obese children cannot succeed in due to their weight. These children become humiliated and become withdrawn beginning the decline in grades. Obese children are often times the center of ridicule by their peers as well as adults, and as a result, making it difficult to have social interaction due to fear of embarrassment.
They are unable to establish personal relationships because the feeling of criticism and failure lowering self-esteem. Personal relationships are vital for development as humans need to receive accolades from each other because they make us feel satisfied, self-confident and valuable. Being obese has a negative effect where those plagued with issue are made to feel inferior to those that judge and even themselves. Self perception can become such a severe issue that many turn to suicide (Paxton, 2005). If parents do not encourage their children in changing their diets and increasing physical activity as an obese youth, these same children are more likely to transcend their weight complications in to adulthood. There are several reasons why childhood obesity occurs and if it is not controlled at an early stage then there are many negative consequences that may occur in that child’s life. It has been estimated that about 26 to 41 percent of obese preschool children grew up to be obese adults, and approximately 42 to 63 percent of obese school-age children grew to be obese adults (Serdula, Ivery, Coates, Freedman, Williamson & Byers, 1993).
In addition to increasing the risk of obesity in adulthood, childhood obesity has been known to cause pediatric hypertension, Type II diabetes, risks of coronary heart disease, creates stress on the weight-bearing joints, lowers self-esteem, and affects relationships with peers (U.S. Surgeon General, 2001). If untreated, these preventable health risks are more likely to transfer in to adulthood, become severe, and even result in death. This issue cannot be tackled by one person alone, it is the responsibility of everyone to make this an important topic and spread it throughout the masses. Preventing childhood obesity is important because this is one of the many growing epidemics that humans can prevent. This public health problem has forced the government to intervene in everyday household affairs to assist parents in reinforcing positive choices. Believe it or not, but the government plays a huge role in this national public health crisis.
They give guidance, support and information vital to making this epidemic a national priority. In their proven commitment to eliminating this problem, they have changed policies, provided funding, created programs and made this problem their life’s issue. They have also given workforce incentives and have monitored the outcome of the policies and programs put in place. Childhood obesity continues to place a strain on the economy as youth projects such as Lets Move, Making it Happen and The School Nutrition Foundation, have been mandatorily created in order for families to be aware of and become involved in the prevention of childhood obesity. The U. S. Food Stamp Program has taken the initiative to explore adding $227 per month to help low income families purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Many states have also provided incentives for citizens that promote healthier behaviors. States such as California and New Jersey have local incentive programs that give tax deductions to those that ride their bikes or economically sound vehicles to work.
There are also incentives that match funds used to create nutrition education and physical activities programs within the workplace. Health care cost continue to sky rocket as $147 billion is used to provide preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity (Finkelstein, 2009). It has been shown that if left untreated, obese children will grow in to obese adults and this also poses a strain on the economy. Obesity related disorders can cause loss of work resulting in many seeking public assistance due to their disabilities. It stops economy productivity as 39.3 million days of work have been lost due to obesity related illnesses (Wolf, Colditz, 1998). Beginning the practice of healthy eating and increasing physical activity at a young age will equip children for success and teach them that maintaining a healthy lifestyle will give them a better and brighter future.
Parents are the first line of defense in the prevention of this health problem which is why it is so important to maintain constant influence on their children. Naturally children seem to follow in the same footsteps and the same patterns as their parents. With that being said, if a child has overweight parents, and their parents have a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits, their children are more likely to become obese. This idea also works the same way if the parents have an active lifestyle and practice healthy eating habits. They have a very difficult decision to make when it comes to healthy choices. The current state of our economy leaves low income families having to choose between food that is affordable versus food that is high in nutritional content. They also have a difficult decision to make when it comes to their mobility practices. Fast food establishments target “on the go” families with drive-thrus designed to be fast pace.
The problem with this is, they serve sweet, over-processed, and fatty foods that normally have low to no nutritional content. Parents are often plagued with the focus of work and maintaining the household that they will find different means of keeping their children occupied, and often too many times that consist of watching television or playing games. Children participating in sedentary activities are acceptable for a small period of time, but the emphasis on physical activity needs to take place in their everyday lives. There are several different ways parents can help their children prevent or stop childhood obesity. They can start by taking small steps to influence a healthier lifestyle.
Expecting anyone, let alone children, to change their eating habits overnight is unrealistic. Give the children goals such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables one serving more than they did the day before or going to the park and increasing their play time from a half hour to a full hour. Praise them for staying on the course, but do not reward them with junk food. Although it is acceptable to serve high caloric, sweet, and fatty foods in moderation, you do not want the children to fall back into their old habits.
Trying to be creative and positive is another helpful step. This will help the children want to be proactive in staying healthy and making good decisions. Lastly, be understanding. Like with any lifestyle change it takes some getting used to. If any of the methods listed do not work for a specific lifestyle, parents should not be afraid to try a different regimen altogether or modify the current one (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008).
In conclusion, the ultimate goal is to stop childhood obesity in an effective and timely manner. The information given throughout this paper has given you an idea on the severity of this issue if unresolved. Parents, schools, and communities around the world have an equal responsibility in fighting this matter. If this epidemic continues on this same path, the outcome will result in obese children becoming obese adults; therefore repelling them from all the benefits that a healthy life style has to offer.
A certain level of understanding about childhood obesity must be attained through education, its causes, how to decrease its risks, its effects on adolescents as they become adults, and the importance on exploring this diverse topic. Along with this understanding, there must be acknowledgment of how our society, social practices, diets, and how physical activities contribute to this health issue. Childhood obesity continues to dramatically increase, and has done so in just a short period of time. It prolongs everlasting effects on the economy, in families, in social practices, and in communities around the globe.
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