Nicholas (Nick) Reeves, who weighs around 117 pounds at the young age of 8 years, is fighting the bulge (excess fat). According to his mother, Angel Reeves, “He’s just hungry all the time. He can finish eating a meal, and then, five minutes later, he's coming in the kitchen saying, “I'm hungry again. I'm hungry again'". Angel Reeves states, “Nick is a very active child who loves to play basketball. But his weight has already impaired his health. Nick had to have his tonsils removed because the thickness of his neck was causing sleep apnea”. Nick weighs more than his elder brother, who is 13-year-old, and keeps teasing Nick for being obese, not to mention the teasing he receives at school! Obesity in children is not just about teasing and taunting and their emotional side-effects, such as low self esteem. Similar to the grown-ups, the health-risks associated with obesity, are serious for children, too. Obesity in children brings about an array of health-issues, ranging from type two-diabetes, to high blood pressure, to heart attack and the list goes on (Donvan & Patria, 2010). Thus, we see that childhood obesity is a threat to the health of children, and therefore, finding an effective comprehensive solution to this epidemic should be our priority.
The number of stories, similar to one above, is on the rise alarmingly. Children are emotionally vulnerable and react differently, in general, than adults when tormented with teasing and bullying. They are not mature enough to tackle such emotional trauma. They need support and help from not only their family but society as whole. Fortunately, it is in our hands to stop such stories from happening. Though the solution to this ever-growing epidemic of childhood obesity is not quick-fix and fast paced, with due perseverance and proper guidelines it is achievable.
This academic paper aims at bringing the epidemic of childhood obesity to the notice of people, as knowing is the first step of any solution-ladder. It also aims at making people, especially parents, and the concerned authorities grasp the gravity of this problem and start treating it as a priority. The problem of childhood obesity, its consequences and its proper solution, have been thoroughly researched and based upon authentic resources. Though I am still a newcomer to the world of scholars and striving to master the necessary skills, I have tried my best to include enough sources on the problem of childhood obesity to lend credibility to my draft. The authors and the articles cited in this draft are experts and from authentic sources. For example, Y. S. Lee is an expert pediatrician and Frankie Philips is an expert in physical healthcare. The articles are mainly scholarly. Together all these tend to lend credibility to this academic draft which focuses on the consequences and solution to the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Obesity in children brings about an array of health hazards, such as, type –two diabetes, high blood pressure, heart-attack, orthopedic problems and psychological problems like low-self-esteem. It is rising at such an alarming rate that the World Health Organization has declared it an epidemic. Everyone is affected by the consequences of childhood obesity, the children, the parents and families, societies and the nation as a whole. This is because children of today are the youth of tomorrow. Obesity in children stays into adulthood, thus affecting the youth workforce of future. Its toll on the economy is a major concern to all, because every taxpayer has a stake in it. It is imperative for any nation to have a healthy and accomplished workforce to sustain and flourish economically. Today’s children are the future assets of tomorrow. If we want a better tomorrow, we must fight together to protect our children from the threat of obesity. Combating obesity will not only ensure the well-being of the children, saving them from grave health problems, it will ensure a better economy, too. Problem Analysis
It is a scientifically established fact, that, obesity is abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat in the body that may lead to health-impairment. It is one of the major health challenges of the 21st century. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has doubled since 1980. What is more concerning is the alarming increase of obesity in children, as they are at a higher risk of growing up into obese adults. Obesity poses serious health and psychological problems to children which have short as well as long-term impacts. Obese and overweight children are seen to grow-up into obese adults. They have premature mortality, high blood-pressure, type-two-diabetes, less agility, lower self-esteem and many other health-issues. The reasons behind it are mainly associated with the unhealthy lifestyle (diet, sleep...) and decreased physical activities. It is very difficult to lose so many extra kilos once accumulated in the body. So, it’s better to prevent obesity and good news is that it can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle and increased physical activities. Let us explore the gravity and ways to tackle this problem. The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) conducted a research in 2012/13 according to which 18.9% of children (aged 10-11) were obese while 14.4% were overweight. In the age group 4-5 years, 9.3% were obese while 13% were overweight (NCMP, 2012-13)). Figure 1 This figure shows the percentage of primary school children, found to be obese in various regions of UK, in the year 2010/11 at reception year and at year 6 of age. The above figure clearly shows that the number of obese children at reception year is much less than that at 6 year of age. It reconfirms the theory that obesity in children can be prevented if treated early. Data from Health Survey for England (HSE), which cover a wider range, bring to light the fact that around 28% of children in the age group 2-15 are either overweight or obese (HSE, 2012). The Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated to determine whether a child is overweight or not. However, children have a varying nature of weight-gain, which is gender-specific, so only BMI calculation cannot be taken as the basis of obesity. A different and special growth-weight-percentile BMI is charted for the children to decide whether a given child is overweight, obese or not. After calculating BMI for children, it is plotted on a growth chart containing the BMIs of all other children in that particular age and gender group. The 50th percentile shows the average trend of weight in a particular age and gender group (Healthy Weight, 2011). Based on this chart for the children in UK, it has been found that one in every three child in UK is overweight or obese. And this overwhelming statistics of childhood obesity is going to rise to about two-thirds by 2050 (Philips F., 2012). What are the factors that lead to child obesity? Are only parents responsible for obesity in their off springs? Why is childhood obesity on the rise at such an alarming rate? After evaluating all these factors, the health hazards related with childhood obesity and a suitable solution to this problem will be discussed. Let us explore all these factors one by one. Figure 2 This figure presents the vicious circle of Childhood Obesity. It is common knowledge that our weight depends upon how much energy/calories we take in, and, how much of these are burnt up by our bodies. When the calories intake far surpasses the calories-burn-up, there occurs an excess of unused energy. This excess energy gets up converted and subsequently stored as fat in our bodies, leading to obesity. Same logic applies to children. The reasons why the energy consumed by children does not get all used, and rather gets deposited as excess fat in their bodies, depends upon various factors, such as, the portion that a child eats or drinks, the extent of physical activities, heredity, sleep-deprivation, and medical-issues(Obesity & Overweight in Children, 2013). On many occasions, the mere fact that, a child eats and drinks much more than it needs has been seen to be cause of obesity. In the contemporary world, the changing food-habits and sedentary lifestyle have become the norm. The intake of fast and packaged food, having high salt and sugar content, while watching TV, is one of the major causes of childhood obesity. The increased exposure to television and mass-media has taken a toll on the physical activities of the children. Once known for their agility and inability to sit at one place, children today are becoming more and more sedentary. They prefer to play video or online games, over playing physically taxing games in the playground. The playgrounds, which once reverberated with the excited sounds of children, are today almost silent and empty. As a result, the high calories consumed by children do not get burned up adequately and get stored as fat, eventually leading to obesity. It has also been noticed that the children of obese parents are generally obese. Children born to mothers, who developed diabetes during pregnancy, are at a greater risk of turning obese. Children born to mothers, who developed diabetes during pregnancy, and did not control the insulin levels, have been found to be around 20-30% heavier than those born to mothers in normal condition (Obesity & Overweight in Children, 2013). Critics, such as parents and social activists with an orthodox outlook, may offer an opposing view to this, arguing that increased sugar levels in mother’s blood is a temporary situation, lasting only during the course of pregnancy, and hence cannot be taken as the sole cause of large weight for gestational age. They might argue that gestational diabetes is a rare phenomenon, so, cannot be taken seriously. Though gestational diabetes is not so common (occurring in 3-10% of pregnancies), its effect on the weight of child to be born is a medically established fact. Pediatricians confirm that if gestational diabetes is left untreated, the increased insulin levels reach placenta and cause large fetal growth. As a result, child is born with large weight compared to child born to mothers who do not develop any such complications during pregnancy (Dabelea D, 2007). Awareness is most vital aspect in such situations. We cannot neglect the gravity of any factor, rare or frequent, associated with childhood obesity. Awareness that gestational diabetes may be a potential cause of childhood overweight and that it can be treated, consequently preventing health risks such as overweight/obesity condition in children, must be spread. In some rare cases, obesity is linked to sleep as well. The hormonal imbalance in two hormone-levels, called leptin (signals to the brain that fat stores in the body are full) and ghrelin (gives hunger signal to the stomach) due to lack of sleep may cause overweight or obesity. Children with decreased physical activities tend to sleep less, and so, are at a risk of turning obese. The medical problem factor is exceptionally rare in children (Obesity & Overweight in Children, 2013).
After exploring the various factors that may cause obesity in children, let us now look at the grave consequences of childhood obesity. As already stated, obese children are at maximum risk to stay obese into even adulthood. And consequently develop serious health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, type-two-diabetes, osteoarthritis, and in some cases certain form of cancer (breast, colon). These problems generally become apparent only when they turn adults. Childhood obesity often leads to disability and premature death into adulthood. At least 2.6 million people die each year as a consequence of obesity (WHO, 2014). In many low income countries, according to the WHO, obesity in children comes as a double burden. At one hand these countries are battling the problem of under-nutrition in children and serious communicable diseases, and on the other hand, fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. It is a serious risk for such countries. Psychological effects of childhood obesity are quite detrimental, too. These lead to low self esteem, poor performance at public events, isolation and, most seriously, bullying by peers. And economically speaking, the cost of treating obese and overweight children in UK currently is around£ 2 billion annually, and is estimated to rise to almost double by 2015 (NCMP, 2013). Thus, it can be seen that there is an urgent need of a multifaceted solution to this epidemic of childhood obesity, which is killing us on all fronts. Solution and Benefits
The best consolation for us is that obesity in children can be prevented by a multifaceted solution. All of us will have to identify our roles in fighting this epidemic together. The most general solution starts at home with parents and family playing their roles in devising a holistic plan, and helping child maintain a healthy lifestyle. Limiting the intake of sugars and saturated fats is the first step. Children should be encouraged to eat more of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and whole grains. They should, also, drink at least 6 glasses of water daily. This will help in regulating the fat in the body. Leading by example is always a better idea. Family members should themselves follow a similar healthy diet. And of course, we must not forget the physical activities part. At least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity should be incorporated in daily routine. The span of sedentary activities like watching TV, playing video-games and surfing computers should not exceed two hours (Childhood Overweight & Obesity, 2014). Planning outdoor weekend games for children, with family, can prove to be a wonderful idea. Schools should join hands with parents in making such plans successful. At schools, junk food and aerated drinks should be banned. It should be made mandatory that there be two refreshment breaks at primary level, one essentially fruit break and the other wholesome fiber rich/protein rich meal break. This will ensure an essential intake of fiber and vital minerals which are crucially important in regulation of fat in the body. Children are more prompt to eat such meals in groups. So, such school meals can prove to be helpful in combating childhood obesity. Physically engaging sports such as gymnastics, taekwondo, skating, or football ought to be made compulsory, too. Schools can take help from professional physical trainers in educating children about how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here, critics, such as people who don’t have a child or a sibling, may ask how they are supposed to contribute to this cause. The answer lies in the fact that childhood obesity is no longer an individual or a family problem. It has become an epidemic. It is taking a toll on the national economy. Such people may offer moral support, like refraining from bullying overweight children, at least. They can join campaigns meant for spreading awareness on childhood obesity.
So far, the preventive measures of curing childhood obesity have been discussed. Let us now look at some measures to curb the obesity in already obese/overweight children. A similar diet and physical activity plan, with a slight variation, can be followed in these cases. In cases of severe obesity, children might be treated with the help of proper medicines advised by practitioners. In more severe cases, where health is seriously at stake, weight-loss-surgery may be performed. As discussed earlier, obesity leads to psychological problems in many children. Professional counseling may be sought in such cases where parents’ efforts do not make an impact. Childhood obesity cannot be fought at home and school levels only. Government along with social activists, NGOs and media must acknowledge their roles in curbing and curing this epidemic. At media level, advertisements of fast and processed food products should not be broadcast at prime time and during children programs. At societal level, awareness programs should be launched to make people aware of the gravity of childhood obesity, and the preventive measures to curb it. Government should provide funds for such awareness programs, and, make necessary strategies to eradicate this epidemic of childhood overweight and obesity. Special rehabilitation centers for overweight and obese children should be established, where, professional help could be provided to parents as well as children. Help lines may be opened for any emergency needs. The above proposed multifaceted solution will be beneficial in combating childhood obesity effectively, as it will be fought on all fronts together. As already discussed, children are the future assets of our nation. Healthier children will grow up into healthier adults, ensuring a healthy and accomplished workforce of tomorrow. It cannot be denied that the economy and well-being of any nation depends upon its workforce, the people. A paradigm shift in treating childhood obesity, as a national problem rather than an individual one, will tend to multifold the efforts being made at individual levels. The engaging nature of this solution at all levels will ensure that obesity in children gets eradicated. Conclusion
On concluding note, I would urge all the people to join hands in waging a war against the epidemic of childhood obesity. This problem is alarmingly on rise, and, needs to be fought on a priority basis. Unless we, as a concerned society, educated and aware elder citizens, take the initiative of this fight against obesity in children in our hands, it can never be cured. Spreading awareness of causes and their effects on childhood obesity, as explored above, is also important. Let us take a pledge to live a healthy lifestyle, and, present it to young children. Let all the parents take a pledge to imbibe healthy eating habits in their children. Let us make them physically active by engaging them into outdoor games. Government, schools, NGOs and media should come forward in tackling this problem by contributing their bits, as discussed. If we want our children to excel at and live a fruitful life, we have to fight this epidemic of childhood obesity at all fronts, otherwise we are going to lose them into an obese adulthood complicated with life threatening/impairing health issues.
Though many solutions have been proposed for combating childhood obesity, none have been sufficiently effective as yet. This is because the problem of childhood obesity is looked upon as an individual or family problem, so far. The call of the hour urges us to acknowledge it as a threat to national health and act accordingly, together. Let us work together for a healthier tomorrow for our children, and eventually for our nation. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to join me in the fight against the threat of obesity in children. Sign-up for receiving updated techniques and guidelines to fight obesity, and to get updated information on our progress. I would urge you to volunteer to participate in campaigns, organized for spreading awareness on childhood obesity in our locality. Let us join hands to fight the problem of childhood obesity, an imminent threat to the health of our children, in order to build a healthy tomorrow.
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