Childhood Obesity Prevention and Intervention Essay
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“Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008). That statistic is staggering. Data and surveys from the 1970’s to present suggest that the United States has been fighting obesity for a great deal of time and the battle continues, increasing in numbers and ever more alarming trends (Fals, 2009). Obesity has historically been treated as an adult problem, but the tripling of childhood obesity over the last three decades clearly illustrates that children are at exponentially higher risk, requiring a shift in focus.
Immediate and continuing efforts are essential in the battle against childhood obesity. Prevention, education, and intervention require the involvement of not only affected children and their parents, but the public, government, and medical community as well. The government and society need to become involved in making prevention and intervention of childhood obesity a top priority.
Family involvement is also critical; however, aid is needed to support and educate them. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has been promoting a campaign (Let’s Move!) to raise awareness and help prevent childhood obesity (White House, 2011).
The campaign’s checklists for parents and childcare providers contain numerous simple, but helpful tips like dietary changes, exercising, and restricting television and video game time. Similarly, We Can! ® is a program offering many resources to parents, caregivers, and local community groups. Like the latter campaign, this program also places focus on diet, exercise, and media usage. The program partners nationally with a number of organizations and media outlets to ensure families in all parts of America have access to information and help (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services [HHS], 2012). More programs like these are needed in communities and nationwide.
The number of resources is increasing but not as quickly as the problem they are attempting to help. Strategies for childhood obesity intervention and prevention are surprisingly simple, but it is up to parents to implement them. One strategy is sharing meals as a family. Choosing healthy foods is not easy and parents can help by providing healthy meals and sharing them with their children. In addition, children often model the behavior of parents; therefore, a parent eating healthy foods may influence the child to do the same. Eating together has the added benefit of being an emotionally positive experience for the entire family. According to guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, food choices and physical activity are the most important factors in the obesity battle. Consequently, parents must offer healthy foods in addition to lowering the calories their children consume. Children must also be encouraged to exercise (HHS, 2010, p. 10).
Finally, reduction of television, video games, and computer usage encourages children to be more active and gets them moving. Reducing screen time to no more than two hours per day is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2003, p. 427). By implementing these strategies, parents will be able to help their children with making strides towards health. Research studies have determined health dangers faced by obese children are comparable to those of obese adults. Formerly adult-associated chronic diseases are striking children. These diseases (comorbidities) are numerous and may have grave consequences. Diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and the metabolic syndrome are only a few examples of the diseases striking obese children (Daniels et al., 2005, p. 2002).
Furthermore, additional research has determined that childhood and adolescent obesity can cause early death (Reilly & Kelly, 2011, p. 894). The medical community must provide more research and education to help with prevention of these disease processes and better interventions. Researchers have stressed the “stigmatization of fatness,” with regard to societal views of this disease (Gard & Wright, 2005, p. 69). Obese children are assumed to be lazy and unworthy of attention. Obese children suffer many psychological issues and the bullying is one of the contributors. A recent study reported, “Bullying happens every day” and it “has a direct impact on stress and trauma symptoms” (Brandt et al., 2012).
Furthermore, “Children who are obese are more likely to be bullied” asserts another study (Lumeng et al., 2010). In general, obese children tend to be at risk for depression, anxiety disorders, social phobias, poor self-esteem, eating disorders, and a higher risk of suicidal tendencies. Psychiatric intervention is required to aid obese children in developing normally so these problems do not continue into adulthood. Individual support and support groups could be very effective interventions to consider. The epidemic of childhood obesity is not getting better. Every year it appears to be getting excessively worse. Realistic goals are to educate parents, healthcare providers, and the public, giving them as much research and information as possible. Education, intervention, and prevention are the most important factors for combating the effects of childhood obesity and in helping to ensure the health and happiness of children suffering from this disease.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2003). Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics, 112(2), 427. Retrieved from http://www2.aap.org/obesity/ppt/PREVENTION%20OF%20PEDIATRIC%20OBESITY%20AAP.ppt – 9k – 2010-03-11 Brandt, A., Zaveri, K., Fernandez, K., Jondoh, L., Duran, E., Bell, L., . . . Gutierrez, J. (2012). School bullying hurts: Evidence of psychological and academic challenges among students with bullying histories. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences: Special Edition, 11. Retrieved from http://www.kon.org/urc/v11/bullying/brandt.html Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). CDC – Obesity – Facts – Adolescent and school health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm Daniels, S., Arnett, D., Eckel, R., Gidding, S., Hayman, L., Kumanyika, S., . . . Robinson, T. (2005). Overweight in children and adolescents. Circulation, 111(15), 1999-2012. Fals, A. (2009). Childhood obesity: A bit of history – National childhood obesity. Examiner. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/childhood-obesity-a-bit-of-history Gard, M., & Wright, J. (2005). The obesity epidemic: Science, morality, and ideology (1st Ed.). New York, U.S.A.: Taylor & Francis Inc.
Lumeng, J., Forrest, P., Appugliese, D., Kaciroti, N., Corwyn, R., & Bradley, R. (2010). Weight Status as a Predictor of Being Bullied in Third Through Sixth Grades. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 125(6), 1301-1307. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-0774. Reilly, J., & Kelly, J. (2011). Long-term impact of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence on morbidity and premature mortality in adulthood: Systematic review. International Journal of Obesity, 35(7), 891-898. doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.222.