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Childhood Obesity Among Children in Industrialized Countries

Introduction

Childhood obesity is an increasing and complex issue that occurs when a child is above the healthy or normal weight based on height and age. The U.S is recording a high prevalence of the condition among adolescents and children. In the years 2017 and 2018, America recorded a prevalence of as high as 19.3% representing about 14.4 million children (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HHS). The rate was 21.2% for adolescents aged between 12-19 years, 20.3% for children aged between 6 and 11, and 13.4% for those aged 2-5 years (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HHS). Rasmussen & Denise revealed that certain populations are more prone to the problem because of many factors such as cultural behaviors, practices, eating habits, and genetics (902). Statistics taken between 2017 and 2018 revealed that obesity prevalence was 8.7% for non-Hispanic Asian children, 16.1% for non-Hispanic, 24.2% for non-Hispanic Black, while Hispanic children recorded a high prevalence of 25.6% (HHS). The paper explores the rising childhood obesity in industrialized countries and proposes possible solutions to the problem.

The cases of childhood obesity in developed countries have risen to high levels where they are now considered endemic. Excessive weight is associated with major metabolic changes, including orthopedic complications, peripheral insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and psychosocial disorders. The negative implications compromise the quality of life and raise morbidity and disease factors (Da Silva, Michele & Elaine 209). The increased availability of sugary and fatty foods and changing lifestyles in developing countries is a major cause of the escalating problem. Many people are preferring to eat fast foods outside since they are easily accessible, affordable, and eliminates the need of having to cook from time to time.

Causes of Obesity

Behavioral Causes

Certain regular activities or behaviors can contribute to the development of obesity and pose health issues. Unhealthy diets, such as those containing low nutrients and high calories can encourage the accumulation of body fats resulting in weight gain. Sedentary activities and lack of adequate physical activities expose children to the risk of developing obesity. On the contrary, being physically active and taking healthy foods can facilitate maintaining a healthy weight (Da Silva, Michele & Elaine 209). Appropriate balancing of physical activities and avoiding fatty foods can play a great role in the prevention of obesity and other associated health conditions, such as heart problems and type 2 diabetes.

Obesity usually develops gradually following a poor lifestyle and diet over a long period. Consumption of larger portions than recommended marked with reduced burning of excess fat contributes to the problem. Parents need to understand portions that are enough for their children based on their age to avoid giving excessive servings (Rasmussen & Denise 902). Moreover, the risky consumption of sugary drinks among children should be controlled since they have become common in developed countries.

Technological advancement in developed countries has increased cases of bullying. The problem is affecting the self-esteem of many children making them feel depressed. The negative influence of online harassment can make children develop bad eating habits to gain weight. This means that bullying is a new problem that needs to be seriously addressed to save children from eating unhealthy foods to please their peers (Da Silva, Michele & Elaine 210). Although it is difficult to detect bullying, parents should promote their communication with children to learn about issues affecting them. Moreover, it is necessary to understand children’s perception towards obesity and ensure that they develop the right attitude.

Positive feelings for obesity can encourage children to overeat, avoid physical activities, and eat unhealthy foods. Parents should become the first educators for children on issues of health and diet. As noted in the Sigmund Freud development theory, childhood experiences are usually extended to adulthood and shape behaviors and personalities (Rasmussen & Denise 902). This implies that parents should ensure that their children learn the need of adopting good eating habits and lifestyles during their early years.

Community Environment

Certain environments in the community hinder children from engaging in healthy activities. For instance, living in crowded areas with no green parks or playing ground obstructs children from having desirable or adequate physical activities (Da Silva, Michele & Elaine 209). Moreover, places such as schools, communities, and childcare centers determine the nature of activities available for children and the diet offered. Poverty is a challenging factor that makes it difficult for some children to access healthy foods since their parents cannot afford quality foods. Other important community factors include policies, promotion and marketing, and social support.

Consequences of Obesity

Childhood obesity can cause many devastating impacts on the body and increases the chances of developing other health issues. The affected children are more likely to have fatty liver disease, gastroesophageal reflux, and gallstones. Obesity triggers the development of high cholesterol and high blood pressure that are subsequent risk factors for diverse cardiovascular diseases. It also increases the risk of developing insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance (Morrissey et al e12619). Obese children stand higher chances of suffering breathing problems, including sleep apnea and asthma. Their likelihood of developing musculoskeletal discomfort and the joint problem is higher.

Childhood obesity creates and exaggerates psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety. The affected individuals usually report reduced quality of life and poor self-esteem. They also suffer from social problems, including stigma and bullying affecting their interactions with other children. The high body mass index (BMI) implies that the obesity problem can be extended to adulthood where it poses higher risks of developing chronic conditions (Morrissey et al e12619). The duration and severity determine the risk of affecting adult life. To address this problem, parents and healthcare providers must identify the problem as early as possible. Ignoring childhood obesity has heightened the problem affecting the lives of many people.

Diagnosis

Body mass index (BMI) is the most widely used method of diagnosing obesity since it is reliable and simple to apply. For children, a healthy weight is usually greater than or equal to the 5th percentile and below the 85th percentile for height, gender, and age. A child is considered overweight when BMI is below 95th percentile but at or above the 85th of the measure. Any child who is above the 95th percentile is obese and requires interventions to reduce the unhealthy weight (Rasmussen & Denise 902). However, BMI is sometimes not effective for measuring healthy weights among children since they are developing. It is necessary to seek the guidance of health experts to learn about recommended weights for children based on their age and health. This can help determine underlying causes, family history, and the child’s perception.

Solutions to Child Obesity in Developed Countries

Healthy Eating

Obesity children should be encouraged to improve on their eating habits and lifestyle to start losing weight. While attempting to influence weight loss, parents should avoid starving their kids since it comes with devastating implications. They should ensure serving the right amount and type of food and increased physical activities to trigger the burning of fats (Morrissey et al e12619). Helping the child make the necessary changes determines how well the process realizes success. Parents have a role to play in supporting the health of their children since they determine what, where and when food is eaten.

Parents should modify their diet to prioritize vegetables and fruits as they reduce convenience foods, including prepared meals, crackers, and cookies. Food containing high levels of fats and calories, such as sweetened beverages should be limited or eliminated in the diet (Rasmussen & Denise 902). Rather than buying packaged juices that usually have high calories and little nutritional value, it is advisable to make juice at home using real fruits for their children.

Fast foods must be eliminated from the daily serving if success is to be achieved in the fight against obesity. Families with an obese child should develop a habit of eating together to monitor the diet of the affected member (Morrissey et al e12619). Making it an event and avoiding eating while watching video games or entertaining programs can improve awareness of the consumed amount. This would enable the obese child to participate in the weight reduction challenge and always follow the eating plan. Moreover, parents should start cooking traditional foods and adhere to healthy preparation habits that do destroy nutrients.

Parents should make an effort to replace refined foods with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains to reduce hunger and appetite. Unlike simple sugars that release excess energy to the body within a short period, complex sources take time to digest giving room for the body to utilize calories as they come (Morrissey et al e12619). This eliminates the need of storing fats since it is never in excess. A lower calorie eating plan or sustainable low carbohydrates can make it possible for parents to serve until children are full and meet reduction of excess of fat. Patience is necessary since weight loss can take an extended period to achieve desirable results.

Cooking at home should be seen as an overall family affair where children are involved. Through such practices, they learn more about the art of cooking as well as the foods that are of importance to their bodies. Daily cooking menus also go a long way in avoiding cooking foods that are easy to prepare and available where fast foods are included.

Physical Activity

Physical activities are critical in maintaining and achieving healthy weight among children. They strengthen muscles and bones while burning calories to hinder the deposition of fats in the body. Moreover, it is important to encourage children to remain alert during the day and have sufficient and uninterrupted sleep at night. Good habits facilitate weight loss and help make children active and fit. Children aged more than two years should spend no more than two hours in front of a computer or T.V (Morrissey et al e12619). Idle-seating time must be reduced and replaced with physically involving activities such as cycling, running or jogging.

Moderate to vigorous activities for at least an hour daily can be helpful to obese children. Although a structured exercise program may be impractical for children, parents can allocate time for physical activities. To achieve the best outcome, it is necessary to introduce games that can help the child remain active, such as jump rope and hide-and-seek (Rasmussen & Denise 902). Entertaining activities that are liked by a child can help achieve the objective of losing weight within a short period. Parents need to identify activities that their children like and provide the necessary resources. They may include climbing walls, jungle gym, and nature hike where children can increase their physical activities even without their knowledge.

Role of the Government

Governments in developed countries should promote the availability of healthy food through enhancing agricultural activities. Supporting farming practices can help enhance the accessibility of traditional foods and replace unhealthy ones. Moreover, it is necessary to regulate fast food companies in an attempt to make fast food expensive while reducing the cost of healthy foods. Policies should be developed to limit the availability of unhealthy foods in the market, such as sweetened juices and chips (Morrissey et al e12619). Establishing health promotion campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of consuming fatty and sugary foods can boost awareness and enable many people to make healthy choices. For instance, the government can develop regulations to demand the provision of information on the product’s label regarding the dangers of taking certain products such as sodas and other carbonated drinks. Since many people make risky decisions because of ignorance, enhancing knowledge can encourage parents to make the best decisions for their children.

Measures need to be put in place to hinder the advertisement of unhealthy food to avoid the development of a positive attitude towards them. Most manufacturers tend to associate their products with success influencing consumers to make misleading decisions that eventually affect their health and quality of life (Morrissey et al e12619). Manufacturers should stop misguiding consumers but instead offer accurate information to save the situation. Although these companies are paying taxes, the government needs to consider the long-term implication of having a weak workforce and the cost of treating emerging from poor diet.

Conclusion

The increased availability of high-calorie foods in industrialized countries is to blame for the rising prevalence of obesity. Fast foods are easily accessible, convenient, and affordable to most families. This has encouraged many families to eat out to cut the cost and eliminate the need for cooking. Unfortunately, the habit has triggered the accumulation of fats affecting the health of many children. Encouraging parents to stop serving children sugary and high-calorie food can help avoid the situation. It is important to start preparing traditional foods at home and limit the consumption of simple carbohydrates. Moreover, it is necessary to increase physical activities for their children through creating entertaining games or events to influence frequent exercises. Sedentary lifestyles should be avoided by reducing idle time and creating room for moderate to vigorous activities every day. The government should intervene to limit the availability and accessibility of fast foods in the market while promoting healthy diets.

Works Cited

Da Silva, Cerano C., Michele A. Monteil, and Elaine Monica Davis. “Overweight and Obesity in Children are Associated with an Abundance of Firmicutes and Reduction of Bifidobacterium in Their Gastrointestinal Microbiota.” Childhood Obesity, vol. 16, no. 3, 2020, pp. 204-210.

McDonnell, Tim. “Childhood Obesity Is Rising ‘Shockingly Fast’- Even In Poor Countries.” National Public Radio.  2019, Web.

Morrissey, Bridget, et al. “Sleep and Obesity among Children: A Systematic Review of Multiple Sleep Dimensions.” Pediatric Obesity vol. 15. No. 4, 2020, pp. e12619.

Network Health Digest. “Childhood Obesity: Causes, Consequences & Potential Solutions.” Dietetically Speaking, Web.

Rasmussen, Sonja A.,& Denise J. Jamieson. “Public Health Decision Making during Covid-19—Fulfilling the CDC Pledge to the American People.” New England Journal of Medicine vol. 383, no.10, 2020, pp. 901-903.

Statista. Obesity Rates Continue to Trend Up in U.S. Statista. 2020, Web.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Childhood Obesity Facts: Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. n.d 2021, Web.