Childhood Obesity: Detection and Prevention
I remember when I was a young child, I hadn’t the slightest clue of nutrition. My brother and I always looked forward to the times when we got to go to grandmas and eat her cookies, which were the best in the world to us. Now the American society is obsessed with obesity in children. The government and a lot of other organizations have come out with movements to keep children healthy, like The National Football League’s Play 60. I am all for these health kicks for the children but I believe there needs to be stronger ways of detecting and preventing it from happening in the first place. It needs to be detected and fixed right away.
In order for a person to understand childhood obesity, they have to understand nutrition and health. A key factor for keeping a child in a healthy weight range is making sure the parents or guardians of that child know which foods are healthy and which foods are not. Also portion control is a big element when maintain a certain weight. Two things in my opinion ultimately determine a child obesity level. The first is what the parents have available for food in the house, the second is how much of that food is eaten by the child. The New York Department of Health states, “ Being overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns (too many calories) and too little physical activity.” Diagnosing childhood obesity is usually measured by a something called a BMI. According to the Let’s Move government campaign, BMI stands for body mass index and uses a measure of a person’s weight and height to calculate a certain number. That number, then, falls into a category; underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese. Although this measure is often used in a regular household or at a local doctor’s office, I know from experience that it can give inaccurate results. Recently, I calculated my own BMI and found out that I had a 25.8 body mass index or what turns out to be in the overweight category. I know for a fact that I am not overweight, so I sort of chuckled at the idea that of me being overweight. Maybe doctors and scientists should come up with a new sort of measurement that is quicker than going to a check up and having a doctor look at a child.
In a blog that I found by Stacy Lu, she said “Early intervention is key, particularly as kids are less set in their ways than adults, so it’s easier to change their behaviors and teach them new concepts.” This I had to agree with and after reading this I sort of stopped and thought about my situation as a child growing up. My mom was always concerned with what I ate and how much of it. I had to ask if I could have a snack if it was after supper. I could only eat one of each snack a day and she always made a well-balanced, nutritional meal for us at dinner. This I have to thank my mom for. I grew up healthy and with good nutrition and a lifetime of healthy food knowledge. It has been said in a blog that childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years. That blog also stated that “the obesity rate of 6-11 year olds was 6.5%, in 2008 had tripled to 19.6%.” After seeing these numbers, I realized that it is an epidemic that needs to be dealt with. There was another blog that I saw that showed a picture of a school lunch menu. The menu was terribly unhealthy and the blog composer agreed with me asking questions like “How can kids not be obese after eating these lunches?” The blog composer also said that one parent only let their children eat hot lunches at school once a week because of how outrageously unhealthy the meals were.
|Photo from the third blog|
My best friend who is a year older than me is overweight and his parents are all to blame, in my opinion. Ever since we were young children, I would always go there and they would have all sorts of unhealthy snacks that we consume. He grew up not know what he was doing and his parents let him get overweight and he developed diabetes because of it. To this day he is still a little clueless to the ideas of healthy foods and nutrition. Now his life is permanently altered because he has diabetes that was developed at an early age. He was not as fortunate as I was to grow up with healthy surroundings. Diabetes is expected to grow as childhood obesity in the United States increases. In a study conducted by the American Diabetes Association, only 1 in 400 people under the age of 20 years old have been diagnosed with diabetes. This was quite stunning to me, I thought it would have been worse but I hope it stays at that ratio or gets better.
Obesity is expensive to cure. An article I found gives a figure of how expensive it actually is, “We spend $190 billion a year treating obesity-related health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and a significant portion of those costs are borne by America’s businesses.” (Obama, The Wall Street Journal) Diabetic supplies are expensive and insurance companies and government programs have to pick up the slack the families cannot afford. Obese children require more food to fill so that also takes more money. Typically, parents who allow children to become obese do not pay attention to the costs of food. They are buying a lot less inferior goods and a lot more non-necessary foods such as Doritos and Little Debbie’s that are not healthy for an already obese child.
Businesses are doing their part to help with the childhood obesity problem. “Officials said Wal-Mart will make thousands of the packaged food items that it sells more healthful and affordable by 2015, build more stores in underserved areas, and increase its charitable donations to nutrition programs.” (Wilgoren and Mui, The Washington Post) This is a good thing because from a business perspective, most competitors like Target and K-Mart will come out with their own version of healthy options to consumers, thus creating a whole new availability of cheaper, healthy foods to improve lifestyle for American families. Going back to the same article out of The Wall Street Journal, “In just the past two years, the company reports that it has cut the costs to its consumers of fruits and vegetables by $2.3 billion and reduced the amount of sugar in its products by 10%.” Companies doing new programs like this make such a difference in the way people shop. They will have all these new and cheaper healthy choices. Hopefully this will play a part in the decrease of childhood obesity. Obviously people will be unable to completely stop buying those unhealthy snacks but at least the options are there for those who do not really pay attention when shopping.
One negative side to childhood obesity prevention would be the formation of eating disorders. As parents become more cautious of obese children they may stress it on them and the children might take it a bit too far and create some sort of disease like anorexia or bulimia. “Roughly one out of every 25 girls and women will have anorexia in their lifetime.” (Kam, WebMD) These eating disorders are created by the children trying to stay fit. They can really be harmful to one’s health permanently especially at a young developing age such as high school.
Technology has also become very popular and we are increasingly depending on it in our daily lives. But the prevalence of these technologies is also an influence on childhood obesity. “Over the last 25 years, technology now entices children more than physical activity.” (Saunders, U.S. News) As the children are around iPods and gaming consoles, they are sitting and playing. Not outside and running around and exercising while playing. Also, from my personal experience, the more a person sits around, the more likely they will eat food in the house. Eating while doing something like watching T.V. causes a person to lose track of what and how much they are eating, which leads to over eating.
Childhood obesity is a clear problem facing American society. The problem of obesity is all connected to a general lack of knowledge in the field of health and nutrition. A lot of the responsibility of controlling the childhood obesity epidemic lies with parents. Portion control and wise nutritional selections would help immensely. Obesity is not only detrimental to the health of its victims, it is harmful to the health of the economy. Doubtless, the epidemic of obesity needs to be addressed. There is no single fix to the problem, but education is one vital part of the solution. To fully understand childhood obesity, a person must first understand the basics of health and nutrition.
Kam, Katherine. "Eating Disorders in Children and Teens" WebMD: Children's Health. WebMD, No Date. Web. 06 April 2013.
Obama, Michelle. “Michelle Obama: The Business Case for Healthier Food Options” The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 04 April 2013.
Saunders, Len. “Understanding Childhood Obesity” U.S. News: Health. U.S. News, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 04 April 2013.
Wilgoren, Debbi, and Mui, Ylan Q. “With praise from Michelle Obama, Wal-Mart announces healthy food campaign” The Washington Post: Business. The Washington Post, 20 Jan. 2011. Web. 05 April 2013.