Preventing Childhood Obesity in America:
Everyone Plays a Role
Childhood obesity in America is a growing epidemic. Most would claim they know it is a problem in our country, yet every year there is an increase in the amount of obese children in the United States. The medical, physical, and psychological effects associated with obesity are astounding; nevertheless, processed, high calorie, low nutrient food is widely available and consumed on a regular basis by children. Parents, childcare providers, schools, and the community all need to aid in the cure and prevention of childhood obesity by providing healthy, nutritious food for children and encouraging daily exercise.
Childhood obesity rates have risen at alarming rates over the past three decades. Since the 1970s, childhood obesity has more than doubled in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ([CDC], 2010), obesity increased from 5 to 10.4% between 1976 and 2008 among pre-school children 2-5 years of age. The number of obese children aged 6-11 increased from 6.5 to 19.6% during those years. The estimation for 2010 is that one in every five children in the United States of America is already, or will be, overweight. The result of this has come to the fact that childhood obesity is now the most common prevalent nutritional disorder of children living in the United States. It is one of the most common disorders seen by pediatricians in this country as well (Obesity Society, 2010).
The issue of childhood obesity is complex and not easily remedied. The “toxic environment” we live in right now has contributed to one-fifth of our children having a weight problem (Friedman and Schwartz, 2008, p.718). Cheap, tasty, nutrient-lacking foods are never far from reach. Junk food, processed edible items, and calorie dense morsels are sold in every supermarket, convenience store, vending machine, and public place available, including schools. It wasn’t until recently that schools became suppliers of nutrient-poor, calorie dense food to children. Milk and water from the fountain were the only available beverages in schools for decades. In 1970, only 15% of children ages 6-11 drank soda compared to 61% who drank milk. In 2002, the numbers took a turn with 33% of children being soda drinkers and 33% drinking milk. How did this statistic change? Schools started trying to fill the gap between their needs and their budget. Soda was cheaper than milk, so it became a substitution. Meanwhile, vending machines came into the picture (Friedman and Schwartz, 2008). Kids could choose to eat a sandwich and carrots that were packed for them from home, or they could just buy a bag of chips and a soda out of the vending machine. Obviously, to kids, the sugar and chips would be more appealing than the healthy alternative.
Life styles have also changed drastically for children over the past thirty years. With the increased number of broken homes and women in the work force, fast food is an easy dinner fix. Most single working parents, and even many married working parents, would say it is much easier, and generally less expensive, to grab a burger and fries for their kids through a drive through window than it is to cook a nutritious dinner at home. In addition to the buildup of consuming more and more calories on a daily basis due to life style changes, schools have eliminated physical education programs and recess, and now TV and video games baby-sit children (Friedman and Schwartz, 2008). With the excess of caloric intake in all these unwholesome foods, and the decrease of exercise and movement in children, it’s no wonder there is a childhood obesity crisis.
So, how can a child be determined as obese? A child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) identifies it. BMI measures weight in relation to height. It is used to determine one’s weight status. BMI is the most widely accepted method used to screen for...