Childhood Obesity is as well-known problem in America. An altered lifestyle, as well as dietary habits, could account for the epidemic. There are many differing opinions as to the exact cause and, indeed, the possible solutions to the problem. In order to grasp a basic knowledge of the overarching topic, the findings and theories of various researchers have been compared.
In their article “Weighing in on the Issue of Childhood Obesity,” Lynn-Garbe and Hoot introduce a fictional situation concerning a 4-year-old boy called Kyle. Kyle is the subject of ridicule and exclusion on the playground as a result of his weight (Lynn-Garbe & Hoot).
Their article then explains how Kyle is just one example of an increasing number of children who are seriously overweight and who are singled out as a result.
Researchers are slowly learning about the gravity of the risk that obesity poses for children's health. In his article, Stephen Daniels discusses the burden that the obesity epidemic is creating for the health of America’s children. Daniels mentions that numerous obesity-related illnesses previously associated with adults are now increasingly being seen in children. Examples of such conditions include “high blood pressure, early symptoms of hardening of the arteries, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary disorder, and disordered breathing during sleep” (Daniels).
Daniels discusses the prospect that the increasing incidence and severity of childhood obesity may start to reduce average life expectancy. His article closes by stating that such a possibility makes “obesity in children an issue of utmost public health concern” (Daniels).
Lynn-Garbe and Hoot agree with Daniels that there are serious health risks to children who are overweight. However, they maintain that although risks for health-related problems can and do supplement obesity, the most devastating consequences of children being overweight are actually psychosocial. They claim that children develop negative opinions towards their overweight peers at a very early age. Research shows that from an age as young as six, children in many cultures brand overweight individuals as lazy, stupid, slow, and self-indulgent (Lynn-Garbe & Hoot). Due to the negative attitudes towards obesity, it is likely that overweight children will suffer from depression and low self-esteem, both in childhood and later on in life.
Lynn-Garbe and Hoot claim that obesity usually results from a disproportion between energy intake and energy output. However, there are multifaceted factors influencing this imbalance, including behavioral, economic, cultural, social, psychological, nutritional, and genetic factors. The amount in which each of these aspects contributes to obesity is likely to vary from child to child. (Lynn-Garbe & Hoot).
Green and Reese support the notion that food and exercise levels are largely to blame for the rise in childhood obesity. They claim that most American children spend up to six hours a day conducting inactive activities, such as watching television and playing computer games. They also agree that a child’s social environment has a significant influence on their eating and physical activity behaviors, “particularly when these activities occur primarily in social settings such as family dinners, group outings, school lunches, recess, and recreational times” (Green and Reese).
Green and Reese believe that it is imperative that educational institutions address the problem of obesity via high quality physical education programs. They claim that the curriculum should include “instructions in nutrition, individual and group counseling, exercise classes, and eating control” (Green & Reese). They say that in this setting, stress is placed on “involvement, self-control, fostering acceptable attitudes, and instilling positive self-perceptions” (Green & Reese). They claim that an holistic approach should be adopted and should include all educational professionals, as well as the child’s parents, if helping the child to set realistic goals is to be successful.
Lynn-Garbe and Hoot agree that schools are perfect settings in which to address the issue of childhood obesity. They claim that as the majority of American schools offer children one meal a day, and as most offer physical activity, they are therefore able to incorporate healthy lifestyle programs into existing curricula. Additionally, schools are able to work with cooking staff and children’s families in teaching and enforcing healthy behaviors (Lynn-Garbe and Hoot).
Green and Reese argue that the content of the healthy living initiatives is as important as their very presence. For example, they suggest that weight loss goals set for a child should be small and achievable, so that the child does not become discouraged. They state that “a weight loss rate of two to four pounds per month could be a target goal” (Green & Reese). Additionally, they believe that the process of setting goals can act as a key motivating factor in keeping a positive attitude and in raising a child's self-confidence.
Green and Reese suggest a food diary as a useful way of monitoring the type and amount of food consumed. Using this method, the child can easily observe their eating habits, take part in calorie counting, and make choices concerning the reduction of problem foods. Green and Reese feel that parents should be involved in helping their children with their weight loss goals. They claim that “helping parents to help children with weight control problems involves defining the problem, giving information and feedback, teaching reinforcement strategies, and giving psychological and moral support” (Green and Reese).
Lindsay et al agree that a successful educational program concerning healthy living must have a strong policy of parental inclusion and participation. They claim that parents are vital in creating a home environment that enables and encourages healthy eating and physical activity among children. Lindsay and her colleagues maintain that parents form their children's dietary habits, physical activity, inactive behaviors, and therefore their health in terms of weight, in many ways. A parent’s awareness of nutrition as well as their influence over food choices and eating patterns their modeling of healthful eating practices, and their example of sedentary habits including watching television are all important in their child's development (Lindsay et al).
Moreover, Lindsay et al contest that parents are actively involved in their child’s development concerning weight through all stages, including when the child is in utero.
They claim that even before an infant is born, traits of his mother's pregnancy can put him at risk of becoming overweight later in life. They state that a hostile intrauterine environment, for example, can raise a foetus’s risk of acquiring adult metabolic abnormalities, “including obesity, hypertension, and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (Lindsay et al). According to this theory, the children of mothers who experience from diabetes mellitus, gestational diabetes, and under nutrition and over nutrition during their pregnancy are at specific risk of obesity, with gestational diabetes being the highest risk factor. Therefore, a crucial approach for obesity prevention at this stage of a child's development is to concentrate on screening for and avoiding diabetes during a woman’s pregnancy (Lindsay et al).
Furthermore, it appears that a child’s ethnic origin can affect their likelihood of being overweight. In their article, Davis, Northington and Kola claim that research shows that, overall, BMI is pointedly higher for black and Mexican American females than for white females. Additionally, they report that blood pressure levels among black females have been shown as higher than for white females. Also, glycosylated haemoglobin levels were demonstrated to be higher for Black and Mexican American adolescents, both male and female, than for White adolescents (Davis, Northington & Kola).
Childhood obesity is a growing problem, and one which does not appear to be slowing of its own accord. It appears that there is not one answer to the problem. Nevertheless it is clear that for the best results, a collaboration, between the school, the parents, and the overweight child is imperative. A child’s educational setting can certainly help to educate the child about leading a healthy lifestyle and can also help to enforce that lifestyle through nutritious school meals and an active physical education program. However, without the support of a child’s parents who are the crucial link in providing good food to the child and in creating a healthy, active living environment, the child’s struggle will be much harder.
It is widely accepted that many health risks accompany obesity in childhood. However, the psychosocial and emotional affects are perhaps only just being recognised in their true scope. In order to improve the health, both physical and mental, of the nation’s children, it is vital for everyone to work together to eradicate childhood obesity.
Ana Lindsay et al. “The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity.” The Future of
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Daniels, R. “The Consequences of Childhood Overweight and Obesity” The Future of
Children, Vol. 16. 2006. Web. 4 April. 2011.
Davis, Sheila, Northington, Ladonna and Kathy Kolar. “Cultural Considerations for
Treatment of Childhood Obesity” Journal of Cultural Diversity, Vol. 7. 2000. Web. 4
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Green, Gregory and Shirley Reese. “Childhood Obesity: A Growing Phenomenon for
Physical Educators.” Education, Vol. 127. 2006. Web. 4 April. 2011.
Lynn-Garbe, Cynthia & James Hoot. “Weighing in on the Issue of Childhood Obesity: An
Overweight Child Often Becomes the Target of Discrimination and Ridicule on the
Playground. Clearly, the Problems That Overweight Children Encounter Go beyond
the Physical.” Childhood Education, Vol. 81. 2004. Web. 4 April. 2011.