Childhood obesity has gained a lot of attention in the recent years especially the 21st century. Its prevalence over the last decade has increased tremendously. According to Wang and Lim (176), approximately 20% of school age-children in the European countries are overweight or obese with 5 percent being obese. Additionally, Wang and Lim (176), note that in North America, 15% of school age-children are obese, and 30% are overweight. Developing countries have also experienced an increase in the prevalence of obesity especially in the urban and suburban areas where the socio-economic status is high. Hence, childhood obesity is currently being associated with affluence and families that are well off.
Obesity can be categorized into different levels. A case of severe obesity is defined as being greater 99th percentile of the body mass index for age and gender (Flores and Lin 31). In other cases, obesity may be defined based on the body weight/height. Thus, obesity in this case can be defined as being greater than 120% of the mean body weight/height value (Cameron, Norgan and Ellison 5). However, the body mass index (BMI) is the most common method employed in measuring obesity. The BMI is calculated by dividing an individual’s weight (kg) by the square height (meters) (Philips 14).
Risk Factors associated with Childhood obesity
A common risk factor is the presence of parental obese genes. According to Philips (16), parents having obese genes increase the likelihood of obese occurring by a factor of 12 for boys and a factor of 10 for girls. Parental genes are one risk factor that seems to be a consistent predictor of the likelihood of obesity occurring in a child in the future. Additionally, the lack of physical activity is also another important risk factor. This is common in children who are involved in increased television viewing and playing videos games. This has been encouraged through media and the social environment, which places an emphasis on the social trends and leisure more than on dieting and healthier life choices (Penn and Kerr16). Phillips (16) also notes that the duration of breastfeeding also affects the occurrence of obesity. The reduced duration of breastfeeding increases the chances of child or baby developing obesity. Furthermore, an increase in weight or rapid weight gain within the first 12 months increases the risk of obesity at age of seven years (Philips 16).
Health consequences or problems associated with obesity
Research indicates that most children with obesity are normally happy and confident (Phillips 15). However, the main concerns associated with obesity revolve around health and social consequences. A common consequence that occurs in the short-term period affects the child’s social and psychological well being. Children with obese are normally discriminated against in schools, which normally fosters deterioration in self-esteem. Consequently, the child develops a poor body image, which contributes to the development of eating disorders later in the child’s life. Phillips (15) indicates that in the short-term period obesity can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. An estimated two-thirds of school-aged children with obese are likely to have at least a factor associated with the cardiovascular disease such as increased blood lipids, high blood pressure and increased insulin levels (Phillips 15). Other short-term medical conditions include increased risk of developing asthma, joint problems and fatty liver.
In the long-term, obesity will cause early puberty especially in girls at the age of ten. Further, obesity will increase cases of illnesses in individuals and contribute to poor socio-economic outcomes of individuals. According to Wang and Lim (176), obese children will develop into obese adults and thus are at higher risk of developing chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and certain cancers. Further, premature death will likely result in some of the cases of obesity where this chronic disease are present.
Prevention and Treatment
One of the most valuable preventive measures against childhood obesity is the inclusion of physical activities in their daily schedule. This may require parents to allow their children to play every day. This helps to ensure that there is minimal accumulation of fats in the children’s bodies. In some instances, parents will have to be strict about the use of indoor games such as video games. They ought to insist that the children participate in outdoor games that involve running, jumping and sweating. A typical one to two hours is sufficient for the child’s health without causing fatigue or disruption of other activities, especially academics.
Another effective strategy that can be employed is the minimization of the amount of time spent in front of the television or screen. Children ought to be given specific times for watching television. This allows them to do proactive things and hence encourage outdoor activities. Another important factor in the prevention of childhood obesity is the control of diet. The children should barely eat fast foods such as French fries. Meals ought to be eaten as a family where they are balanced. Fruits and vegetables ought to take precedence over carbohydrates. In fact, it is recommended that a third of the meal should comprise of vegetables. Water should be taken in plenty throughout the day and during meals. Water ought never to be replaced with energy drinks since these contain a lot of unnecessary sugar.
Most importantly, parents are tasked with the role of being examples and role models to their children. Parents should maintain healthy eating lifestyles and even constant workout routines. This encourages the children to be equally active and hence reduce the probability of occurrence of childhood obesity. Parents are persuaded to avoid the use of food, especially confectionery, as rewards and punishment. This sets up wrong attitudes among the children hence resulting in overindulgence in the same as they grow up. Overweight parents ought to show an initiative of losing weight if they hope their children to take up a healthy eating lifestyle (Phillips 16).
Schools play a significant role in preventing childhood obesity through their co-curricular activities. They ought to insist of active participation in sports and even include it as a subject. Some schools have an official day of the week that is set aside for sporting activities. The sporting activities help to ensure that the child develops an interest in physical activities and lose unnecessary weight (Phillips 16). Parents and teachers ought to encourage children to take up healthy dietary behaviors. This includes ensuring that the children do not skip breakfast meals since this is one of the causes of childhood obesity in many obese children. Treatment of childhood obesity is not possible as a single dose. However, the most effective treatment programs involve dietary and behavioral changes.
Child obesity is a common problem in today’s society due to behavioral and dietary changes. It has become more common due to the increase in the risk factors that cause obesity. However, it is possible to manage the problem through adequate support and guidance program by both the parents and the school. The control of the problem aids in averting future health complications associated with excessive weight.
Cameron, Noël, N. G. Norgan, and G. T. H. Ellison. Childhood obesity: contemporary issues. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis, 2006. Print.
Flores, G, and H Lin. "Factors Predicting Severe Childhood Obesity in Kindergarteners." International Journal of Obesity 37.1 (2013): 31-39. Academic Search Premier.
Penn, Sarah, and Joanne Kerr. "Childhood Obesity: The Challenges for Nurses." Nursing Children & Young People 26.2 (2014): 16-21. Academic Search Premier.
Phillips, Frankie. "Facing Up To Childhood Obesity." Practice Nurse 42.11 (2012): 14-17. Business Source Complete.
Wang, Youfa, and Hyunjung Lim. "The Global Childhood Obesity Epidemic and the Association between Socio-Economic Status and Childhood Obesity." International Review of Psychiatry 24.3 (2012): 176-188. Academic Search Premier.