Child Obesity in the United States

Introduction

The statistics on child obesity in the United States is alarming. The number of overweight children in most of the states has been on an upward trend despite the increased media campaigns sensitizing the public on this health condition. According to Ogden et al. (483), the percentage of childhood obesity has doubled in the last 30 years. In the year 2010, the percentage of children who were obese was 18% in the country.

This represented an 11% increase in the number of children aged between 6 and 11 who were obese in the past 30 years. According to Wieting (546), childhood obesity is caused by societal physical inactivity, the mass media, and the child’s diet at home and away at school. This essay provides an argumentative analysis of the causes of child obesity. In addition, its consequences and measures to reduce its prevalence are argued out.

Child obesity

It is important to define what child obesity is before discussing its real causes. This is a medical condition that affects children, as well as teenagers. It is a state of excess body fat that negatively affects the health of a child during childhood and may also be prolonged into adulthood (O’Dea & Eriksen 133). This implies that child obesity results from excess calories caused by the diets they consume. A child is then considered to be obese when his or her body mass index (BMI) does not measure up with the body fat.

The environment, in which children in the United States live, has significantly influenced the increase in childhood obesity. As observed by a number of authors, factors such as social environment, physical inactivity, mass media, and diet contribute immensely to the increase in the prevalence of the epidemic (Wieting 546).

From a societal perspective, many residential areas in the United States lack supermarkets, retail stores, and grocery stands that can supply fresh and inexpensive food produce to the residents. Furthermore, these areas are characterized by the unavailability of open spaces for children to engage in physical activities. In addition, the traffic on the streets and high violence rates in the neighborhoods make parents keep their children indoors glued to the television, video games, and computers.

These items provide sedentary entertainment to children, which is a principle cause of childhood obesity (Wieting 546). Poor public transport across the Unites States has promoted dependence on cars as a means of transport by a majority of the urban dwellers. Similarly, fewer pedestrian side-walks and riding paths have encouraged overreliance on cars for transport in many residential areas (Wieting 546).

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (para 6), the lack of quality physical activity in school is playing a major part in child obesity. In the past decade, the participation of school-age children in physical exercises has declined. For instance, 45% and 22% of ninth grade and twelfth grade students attended physical education classes. The limited engagement in physical activities by children while away from school also contributes to this condition. According to Watts et al. (623), frequent physical exercises are critical to the proper functioning of a child’s body. It improves the flow of blood, which reduces the chances and effects of obesity.

Increased access to mass media has had a significant effect on the increasing rate of child obesity in the country. Sedentary lifestyle among children has been promoted through access to social and mass media platforms. Children in the United States spend most of their time on game screens, computers, television, and other types of media. Food companies have also increased food advertisements through the main-stream media.

Most of these advertisements promote non-nutritious foods. They target favorite shows viewed by children. Research indicates that there is a strong association between increased food advertisements and the prevalence of child obesity (Musemeche para. 3). A single commercial exposure has been proved to affect food choices hence influencing the parents’ food purchase decisions.

Though the mass media has been heavily criticized for the prevalence of obesity, a lot is not brought out in the debate. Parents should bare the blame for this to some extent. Children cannot make informed consumption decisions by themselves and, therefore, require the guidance of their parents. Similarly, parents ought to take responsibility and ensure that they control the diets of their children.

Food advertisements do not necessarily target only children, but the entire audience, and hence parents cannot lay blame on the media. Parents are also more exposed to the advertisement and media programs on healthy food. When they allow their child to consume junk and high calorie foods, this is regarded as parental negligence that significantly contributes to this epidemic (Watts et al. 620).

However, according to Smith (para 2), the lack of physical exercises is not to blame in the rising incidences of child obesity. Smith notes that overeating makes children become overweight and hence making them less physically active. Obesity among children is attributed to junk food and overfeeding at very early stages of childhood. By referring to recent research on child obesity, Smith relates the increasing obesity level among children to the changing food regimes, but not to the mass media and the lack of physical exercises (Smith par 3). This argument is in line with the thoughts postulated by Floriani and Kennedy that physical exercises are not enough to curb child obesity, but a change in children feeding regimes should also be considered (Floriani & Kennedy 93).

Fast-food consumption has increased among children in the past decades. These foods contain more fats, carbohydrates, and high amounts of sugar with fewer fruits and non-starchy vegetables. It is critical to recognize that these foods, which are high in calories, have increased obesity among children and also increased risks of contracting other ailments associated with excess weight. The consumption of these foods encourages the opening of more fast-food restaurants in the neighborhoods. Limited financial resources have also contributed to the consumption of these foods.

Some of the health risks associated with obesity are that childhood obesity increases the likelihood of high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This increases the chances of children developing cardiovascular diseases (Freedman et al. 114). Furthermore, overweight and child obesity increase the risks of type 2 diabetes in childhood and adulthood. Children with obesity are more likely to suffer from asthma, and the joint problem is that the condition is not adequately controlled (Han, Lawlor, and Kim 1739). Above all, obese children are more likely to suffer from social and psychological problems namely isolation, discrimination, and low self-esteem, which may affect them until adulthood (Whitlock 127).

The above consequences are a matter of concern to the parents, children, medical practitioners, society, and the government. Millions of dollars have already been spent in the fight against this epidemic, and if not curbed early enough, the medical treatment of conditions associated with child obesity will be difficult to accommodate. Advocacy and regulation offer an avenue through which child obesity can be prevented in the United States (Wieting 549). Media campaigns should be put in place to create awareness of the negative impacts of unhealthy consumption of junk food. Additionally, food marketing and advertisement should be stream-lined to correct the current shortcomings. Nutritional standards should be set for food manufacturers to follow.

The second and most critical approach is the osteopathic approach, which involves healthcare professionals and osteopathic physicians (Wieting 549). This group should create awareness among children and adults about the importance of physical exercise, healthy lifestyles and avoidance of sedentary lifestyles created by addiction to social media. Together with the education fraternity, they should work in the development and promotion of physical education in schools. They should also provide nutritional fitness counselling to parents and adolescents. Finally, osteopathic practitioners should encourage health program clinics in schools and the neighborhoods.

Conclusion

The epidemic of child obesity has increased child morbidity and mortality in the United States. It has been continuously increasing despite the measures put in place to control it. In order to deal with this epidemic successfully, all the stakeholders need to be aware of the factors that are behind its high prevalence. Researches over the past years reveal that the increased number of people leading sedentary lifestyles due to the effect of mass media are behind the level of mortality. However, the lack of the physical exercise, societal factors, and unhealthy eating habits among the children significantly contribute to the menace.

Works Cited

Floriani, Victoria, and Christine Kennedy. “Promotion of physical activity in children.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics 20.1 (2008): 90-95. Print.

Freedman, David S., Zuguo Mei, Sathanur R. Srinivasan, Gerald S. Berenson and William H. Dietz. “Cardiovascular risk factors and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study.” The Journal of Pediatrics 150.1 (2007): 12-17. Print.

Han, Joan C., Debbie A. Lawlor, and Sue Kimm. “Childhood obesity.” The Lancet 375.9727 (2010): 1737-1748. Print.

Musemeche, Catherine. “Ban on advertising to children Linked to lower obesity rates.” The New York Times, 2012. Web.

O’Dea, Jennifer A., and Michael P. Eriksen. Childhood Obesity Prevention: International Research, Controversies, and Interventions. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Ogden, Cynthia L, Margaret D. Carroll, Brian K. Kit, and Katherine M. Flegal. “Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010.” The Journal of the American Medical Association 307.5 (2012): 483-490. Print.

Smith, Rebecca. “Over-eating not lack of exercise to blame for childhood obesity: research.” The Telegraph, 2010. Web.

Watts, Katie, Petra Beye, Aris Siafarikas, Gerard O’Driscoll, Timothy W. Jones, Elizabeth A. Davis, and Daniel J. Green. “Effects of exercise training on vascular function in obese children.” The Journal of Pediatrics 144.5 (2004): 620-625. Print.

Whitlock, Evelyn P., Selvi B. Williams, Rachel Gold, Paula R. Smith, and Scott A. Shipman. “Screening and interventions for childhood overweight: a summary of evidence for the US Preventive Services Task Force.” Pediatrics 116.1 (2005): e125-e144. Print.

Wieting, Michael J. “Cause and effect in childhood obesity: solutions for a national epidemic.” JAOA: Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 108.10 (2008): 545-552. Print.