Nutrition: Childhood Obesity and Sustainability Problem

Abstract

This research paper is aimed at examining the relationship between childhood obesity and sustainability. In particular, it is necessary to discuss the various effects of childhood obesity. For instance, one can mention such issues as adverse physical and mental consequences of this problem, increased costs of medical treatment, and poor social skills of many children who can be stigmatized by their peers.

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This paper is mostly based on peer-reviewed journals, books, and governmental websites that can throw light on various aspects of childhood obesity such as the prevalence of this disease in the United States, its long-term implications, and the way in which its risks can be minimized. Overall, it is possible to argue that the problem of childhood obesity requires urgent attention of parents, medical workers, and educators who should change the lifestyles and attitudes of children.

Thesis

This paper is aimed at discussing the relationship between childhood obesity and sustainability. There are many problems that attract much attention of the mass media; for instance, one can speak about AIDS, cancer, or various virulent diseases because they pose immediate threats to the lives of many people.

Nevertheless, there are many disorders that can have profound implications for the entire society, and childhood obesity is one of them. The detrimental effects of this issue can become palpable in the near future, if no precautions are taken. Moreover, parents, teachers, and medical workers need to focus on the dietary habits and lifestyles of children. Overall, it is possible to say that childhood obesity endangers the physical, psychological, and social welfare of many people.

Childhood obesity and the threats to sustainability

The scale of the problem

The number of children affected by obesity

While discussing the threats that childhood obesity poses, one should first point out that this problem affects millions of children in the United States. In particular, one should mention that 12.7 million children have to struggle with this problem (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Moreover, the rates of childhood obesity among different age groups continue to grow.

The growing prevalence of obesity

Provided that this tendency is not reversed, the situation can significantly aggravate during the next three decades. The growing rates of childhood obesity have long attracted the attention of medical professionals. Thus, it is possible to say that the very scale of this problem is one of the reasons why this issue should attract the attention of different stakeholders such as policy-makers, medical workers, parents, and teachers who need to provide guidance to children.

They have the skills, knowledge, and resources to prevent childhood obesity or at least minimize its effects. They should also distinguish immediate and short-term implications of childhood obesity because this approach can help people gain a better idea about this issue and its social importance.

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Physical and mental effects

Short and long-term physiological consequences

First, it is important to mention that childhood obesity is associated with various health care problems that can arise during various stages of a person’s life. For instance, much attention should be paid to the risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and different forms of cancer.

Apart from that, it is important to mention the increased risk of hypertension which can significantly impair the experiences of a person (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012, p. 732). Certainly, children are not directly affected by these diseases; however, these risks usually manifest themselves during adulthood (Gollust, Niederdeppe, & Barry, 2013, p. 98).

This is one of the issues that should be taken into account. Nevertheless, one should also consider some immediate threats of childhood obesity; in particular, researchers speak about the increased risk of asthma (Gollust et al., 2013, p. 98). Additionally, childhood obesity is correlated with sleep problems which can badly affect the academic performance of a child.

In the long term, childhood obesity can decrease the average life expectancy in the society. Scholars believe that this trend will become evident when modern children will reach the stage of adulthood. It should be kept in mind that the annual cost of treating obesity-related diseases can equal approximately $ 190 billion (Arundel Street Consulting, 2011, p. 41). The main issue is that sometimes these costs are not directly attributed to obesity.

These expenses are usually classified into various groups such as the expenditures related to the treatment of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. However, the underlying cause of these health problems should not be disregarded (Arundel Street Consulting, 2011). Therefore, it is possible to say that in the long term, childhood obesity can present significant economic challenges (Arundel Street Consulting, 2011, p. 41).

This problem can become even more acute in the future due to the growth of the American population. It is important to mention that this issue affects many developed countries; to a great extent, it is an international problem that will eventually become more widespread.

Mental problems

There are other important challenges that should not be overlooked. In particular, one should not forget about indirect psychological effects of obesity. In many cases, children, who gain extra weight, can be stigmatized or bullied by their peers (Gollust et al., 2013, p. 98). As a result, they can struggle with such problems as depression and anxiety.

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Social consequences

Marginalization of children

In many cases, these children feel extremely marginalized, and this effect can also be very dangerous because their relationships with other people can be significantly impaired.

One should keep in mind that these children are not able to play sports requiring physical activities. Very often, this deficiency is emphasized by their peers. As a result, these individuals can be more exposed to the risk of inferiority complex that can profoundly influence the behavior of a person and his/her performance in various areas of life.

These psychological problems can be partly attributed to the existing social norms that lay stress on physical fitness and attractiveness. In turn, these children find it very difficult to reach these standards. This is one of the aspects that should be distinguished because it can throw light on the experiences of many children or adolescents struggling with obesity.

Lookism

It is possible to mention other important risks that should be taken into account. For instance, obesity can impair the socialization of children, and in the long term, it can adversely affect their professional life. One should forget about such a phenomenon as lookism which can be defined as the prejudiced treatment of people who do not meet the accepted standards of physical attractiveness. In many cases, people with extra weight become the victims of this bias.

Certainly, this attitude is not explicitly displayed, but it can influence the decisions of many people, such as employers. Thus, the socio-economic status of these people can be endangered. On the whole, these examples indicate that childhood obesity can cause a great number of challenges. To a great extent, these risks can threaten the sustainability of the entire community because they influence millions of people.

It is important to consider that during the last three decades, the percentage of obese children has increased dramatically, and now this trend cannot be easily reversed. Therefore, the consequences of this problem can become even more palpable in the future; so, one should develop more effective strategies for addressing this problem which lead to catastrophic effects that may adversely influence the welfare of different people.

Strategies for addressing this problem

The origins of this problem

Dietary habits and lifestyles

Overall, the problem takes its origins in the lifestyles and dietary habits of many children. In particular, many of them prefer sedentary lifestyles. For instance, they often choose to watch television or play video games. Furthermore, they may not pay attention to the nutritional value of the food that they eat. As a result, they cannot control their calorie intake.

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Genetic origins

Admittedly, there are physiological causes of this problem; for instance, one can speak about Prader-Willi syndrome (Eckel, 2003). There are several genetic factors contributing to this problem; nevertheless, such cases are not widespread. In turn, social and cultural forces are much more influential (Eckel, 2003).

These factors can determine children’s view of their health. Moreover, the social environment shapes people’s evaluation of their lifestyle. In many cases, the dietary habits of a person depend on his/her awareness about the consequences of the food choices that he/she can take. So, an individual should be able to communicate with people who can increase his/her awareness about these issues.

The role played by medical workers

The contribution of nurses

In particular, much attention should be paid to the role played by nurses who can act as educators. These professionals can tell parents about the importance of proper dietary habits (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). For instance, they can give people better insights into the peculiarities of calorie intake and the way in which it can be controlled.

These medical workers can identify different types of food that are important for proper physiological development of children. Overall, these professionals can assist with the prevention of childhood obesity. Moreover, they need to show how difficult it is to cope with obesity since such messages can be important for prompting parents and children to change their lifestyles (Barry, Brescoll, & Gollust, 2013). Overall, nurses can significantly contribute to the effective solution of this problem.

Dieticians and prevention of obesity

Additionally, medical professionals can develop effective methods for reducing overweight, and this assistance can be of great value to children. Additionally, they can assist parents in developing weight management programs (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). The main issue is that they can act as educators who provide guidelines to families.

The contribution of educators

Limiting the distribution of unhealthy food products

Additionally, this problem can be partly addressed by school administrators. For instance, they can limit the distribution of beverages that are very rich in calories (Farley & Dowell, 2014). This approach has proved to be effective in reducing the rates of childhood obesity in various urban areas (Farley & Dowell, 2014). Furthermore, much attention should be paid to food products that contain large quantities of sugar, salt, and fat.

Promotion of active lifestyles

Furthermore, educators can launch programs that can promote an active lifestyle and healthy diet (Farley & Dowell, 2014). As a result, children, who suffer from overweight, will have more opportunities for reducing their weight. In particular, they will see that their challenges can be overcome. This confidence is important for coping with obesity. Thus, educational organizations can play a pivotal role in addressing this problem. Yet, they need to work closely with parents.

The importance of mass media

The advertisement of food products

Moreover, it is important to consider the role of mass media, policy-makers, and producers. In many cases, the commercials that are designed for children often promote food products which adversely influence various physiological processes.

Very often, these products have very low untraditional value, and they often lead to overweight. For instance, one can mention fried fast food. So, much attention should be paid to the social responsibility of businesses that should make sure that their products do not pose a threat to other stakeholders, especially children.

Increasing people’s awareness about the risks of obesity

Finally, mass media companies should speak more about the risks of childhood obesity and its underlying causes. By focusing on these themes, media companies can change the attitudes of both parents and children. In this way, they can contribute to the prevention of childhood obesity.

Parents

Parents as role models

Nevertheless, parents can be viewed as the main stakeholders who need to set a positive example and act role models for children. The problem is that parents, who lead a sedentary lifestyle, can unwillingly prompt their children to act in the same way. This is one of the details that should be taken into account because it can explain the origins of childhood obesity. It should be noted that the risk of overweight among children is often associated with the educational level of parents (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

In many cases, these children are raised by parents with low educational level (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). This example is important because it shows that childhood obesity can take its origins in families, especially the beliefs, values, and assumptions of parents (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

The main tasks of parents

Overall, parents need to pay attention to the following aspects: 1) the body mass index of children; 2) their daily diet, and 3) lifestyles. By focusing on these aspects, parents will be able to identify the signs of obesity as soon as possible. More importantly, they need to show that active lifestyles are much more fulfilling.

Overall, the proposed strategies are supposed to involve families rather than separate children suffering from overweight. This approach is useful for eliminating various factors leading to obesity. These are some of the main details that can be singled out.

Discussion

Childhood obesity and its behavioral origins

Lifestyles

Thus, childhood obesity is a health problem that can be averted by different stakeholders who need to safeguard children from possible risks. To a great extent, this problem takes its origins in the lifestyles of many children and their parents who may not understand the causes and consequences of overweight. Overall, this issue can be viewed as one of the main threats to the sustainability of society, even though this healthcare issue is not frequently described by journalists as one of the main risks.

The dangers of this phenomenon

Immediate and long-term implications

It is important to remember that the effects of obesity do not manifest themselves immediately. This argument can be relevant to various issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and lack of socialization. Nevertheless, these effects can eventually become very palpable. Moreover, they can influence millions of people throughout the world. These are the most important details should be taken into account by various professionals working with children suffering from overweight.

Conclusion

On the whole, childhood obesity is one of the risks that can eventually undermine the sustainability of society. At an individual level, obesity can lead to significant physiological and mental problems. Moreover, one should mention the inability of a person to establish relations with other people. At the social level, childhood obesity can lead to increased healthcare costs. These problems can aggravate provided that no urgent steps are taken.

It is critical to focus on the education of parents and children who need to understand how obesity can be avoided and why this issue is important. They need to see what kind of factors increase the risk of obesity. Different stakeholders such as educators, media companies, and businesses should concentrate on the prevention of childhood obesity. However, it is also important to develop techniques that can help children cope with the effects of overweight. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.

Reference List

Arundel Street Consulting. (2011). America’s Health Rankings, 2013 Edition: A all to action for individuals and their communities. New York, NY: United Health Foundation.

Barry, C. L., Brescoll, V. L., & Gollust, S. E. (2013). Framing Childhood Obesity: How Individualizing the Problem Affects Public Support for Prevention. Political Psychology, 34(3), 327-349.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Childhood Obesity Facts. Web.

Eckel, R. (2003). Obesity: Mechanisms and Clinical Management. New York, NY: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Farley, T. A., & Dowell, D. (2014). Preventing Childhood Obesity: What Are We Doing Right?. American Journal Of Public Health, 104(9), 1579-1583.

Gollust, S. E., Niederdeppe, J., & Barry, C. L. (2013). Framing the Consequences of Childhood Obesity to Increase Public Support for Obesity Prevention Policy. American Journal Of Public Health, 103(11), 96-102.

Rabbitt, A., & Coyne, I. (2012). Childhood obesity: nurses’ role in addressing the epidemic. British Journal Of Nursing, 21(12), 731-735.

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