Childhood Obesity: a problem Childhood obesity is not merely an issue in the United States- it is an epidemic. The number of overweight and obese children in America has increased at an alarming rate over the past years, and there is no chance of it slowing down unless action is taken. One out of three children is considered overweight or obese. A fast-food craze has swept over the country, consequentially leaving a trail of poor nutrition. Fast-food corporations seem to be encouraging children to consume regular amounts of unhealthy foods by giving away toys with the purchase of a child’s meal. Televisions, computers, and video games, which are considered to be technological necessities, have begun to cloud the importance of exercise. These influences can lead to childhood obesity, which comes with an abundance of negative effects. Obesity puts children at a high risk of developing many serious illnesses. Prevention can be achieved by following a balanced diet and by participating in a healthy amount of physical activity. There are a great deal of causes and negative effects of obesity in children, but fortunately there are also ways to hinder or even discontinue the spread of this crisis. One factor that influences childhood obesity is the limited access to healthy foods. Children raised in low-income backgrounds have a greater risk of becoming obese (Mayo Foundation). Poverty may inhibit some parents from being able to provide their children with exercise and a proper nutritional diet due to a lack of time or money. In United States, the average child spends over three hours each day watching television (eMedicineHealth). Nowadays, many children like to watch TV. After finishing their homework, they run to turn on the TV and watch the latest episode of SpongeBob or Phineas and Ferb. During this time, there are many instant food commercials. It is companies’ goals to direct all their efforts in appealing to the youth and children. With fancy packaging and persuading commercials it would be hard for any child to resist the temptations of such an irresistible item like candy and fat packed sweets. Kids are so easy to persuade and unfortunately commercials and advertisements target these young children and make a profit while doing so. In an article entitled "TV Food Advertisements and Childhood Obesity" by the Health Gal, there was a study that showed overweight and obese children eat more after watching T.V. food advertisements. It found that "today's children are the first generation of Americans projected to have shorter lifespan than their parents." This article contains a lot of statistics that help to support its claim of T.V. advertisements influencing childhood obesity, but while T.V. advertisements are influencing to young children it still can fall back to the parents and their lack of discipline while watching T.V. and eating dinner. Another cause of this problem is linked to the options of food that schools and day cares are giving to the children. Schools are in charge of most of a child’s education. Most school districts offer students several programs, such as music and art programs, which help children with their learning. It is ironic how schools are teaching students not to eat junk food and eat healthy ones, but at the same time, school cafeterias are serving junk foods. Nowadays, many American families are forced to enroll their children in a daycare at a young age. It can be a hard decision to make because they are putting their child in the hands of strangers. Parents are forced to trust in these facilities and hope their children are being well taken care of. One article in particular entitled "Day Care Food May Contribute To Childhood Obesity" from the Health Guide magazine, basically relates daycare food to childhood obesity. This article states that nearly 82% of American children under the age of 6 are in daycare. "So nutrition, exercise or physical activity and other health issues are all being handled by persons other than the primary parents for a significant number of hours daily." This article is extremely eye-opening and very informative because many parents wouldn't even think about what their children are getting fed when they aren't around and just assume that they are getting healthy and nutritious snacks and meals throughout the day. Another important factor that influences childhood obesity is lack of physical activity. Children nowadays are spending more time indoors than did a generation ago. This is due to advancement of technology. Children are now spending time watching TV or playing videogames. They would rather watch their favorite shows and beat the next level of the videogame than play outside. Because children are not burning the calories they are consuming the body fat increases and consequently their weight is affected. Lack of physical activity has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Childhood obesity is thought to not only result from emotional problems, poor nutrition, or lack of financial resources, but also from genetics. Genetics are a cause of obesity in children, because metabolic disorders can be inherited. If one of a child’s parents is obese, the child has a 50 percent chance of becoming obese as well. If both parents are obese, the child has an 80 percent chance of becoming obese (AACAP). When asked if heredity is a cause of childhood obesity, Mrs. Regenia Bell, a registered dietitian, stated, “Heredity as far as genetics can play a part. However, it’s more likely to be the lifestyle a child inherits. Children of obese or overweight parents are much more likely to be overweight or obese. They eat the same foods and mimic the parents’ level of activity.” Obesity cannot be inherited, but disorders that result in obesity can. Hormone imbalances, steroids, and psychological medications can cause childhood obesity, but these occurrences are very rare. Illnesses that prevent children from participating in physical activity can result in obesity on rare occasions. Two of these illnesses are Prader-Willi syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome. There are many causes of obesity in children, and with these causes come a great deal of negative effects. Obese children not only suffer from unhealthy weights, but must also contend with many other physical, mental, and emotional ailments. Asthma, type II diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, lower body bone and joint problems, osteoarthritis, growth abnormalities, breathing problems such as sleep apnea, certain kinds of cancer, gout, rashes or fungal infections of the skin, and acne are illnesses that obese children are at risk of developing (eMedicineHealth). These effects are very serious physical problems that would likely follow an obese child into adulthood. However, obesity can have a much more devastating effect- death. Around 300,000 people die each year from health problems brought on by obesity (Redbourn). This number is overwhelmingly high. The percentage of children and adolescents who are defined as overweight has more than doubled since the early 1970s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 15 percent of children and adolescents are now overweight. Ironically, obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise. In fact, 30% of adult obesity begins in childhood. Obesity accounts for more than 300,000 deaths a year and the annual cost to society for obesity is estimated at nearly $100 billion. Childhood obesity is a growing problem.
When children are born, they have don’t have any knowledge. It is up to the parents to help their children grow and distinguish right from wrong. If the parents continuously eat unhealthy foods, then children might copy that. If parents eat healthy foods only, then most likely, the children will copy that. Parents should be good role models. The solutions to childhood obesity don’t require diet plans or any therapy. They are simple enough to be done at home: exercising and eating healthy.
One of the main reasons why children are getting obese is because the amount of food they eat and amount of exercise they do don’t balance. Exercise is not only well to balance our calories intake but it also strengthen and increases our done density, and blood pressure is better controlled. Also children who are physical active are more likely to remain active into adolescence and adulthood preventing many of the health issues mentioned before. Exercise has many other positive affects in our children's life such as improvement in classroom performance, and mental health. School-aged children should have 60 minutes of or physical activity daily, as Bell suggests this should be a developmental appropriate, enjoyable, and involves a variety of activities. Bell further explains how she developed a number of tips to help promote increased physical activity. She suggests making physical activity fun, "Think about things that your child likes to do, whether it is dance, play basketball, or run around the park, incorporate them into your daily routines." She also suggests making physical activity simple so the family and the child don't get frustrated with complicated exercise plans. Also, reason why children don’t engage in active activities is because they spend more time watching TV and playing videogames. Parents should limit the number of hours spent doing these activities.
Eating healthy is key to solving childhood obesity. Schools should not overuse the trust of the parents and feed children junk food because it costs more money. Family has an important role. One article entitled "Household Routines Linked to Lower Childhood obesity" suggests that there are simple household routines that need to be followed in order to prevent childhood obesity. "Eat dinner as a family six or seven times a week, limit the time the child watches T.V. to less than two hours a day, and make sure he or she gets more than 10.5 hours of sleep a night." The article states that those three simple household routines are associated with an almost 40% reduction in the risk of childhood obesity. Parents are no longer raising families the same as they used to 50 years ago. Both parents are usually having to work outside the home requiring the kids to be in daycare and further causing the family to spend less time together and the parents being tired and overrun with everyday life struggles and stress. The economy has taken a downfall and that has forced many Americans to change their lifestyles. Fast and easy has become part of our lives. Sometimes fast and easy can be a life saver. But in other cases, it is a life destroyer. Childhood obesity is threatening a generation. We need to put a limit on the fast and easy.