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The Problem of Childhood Obesity

Introduction

The obesity rate among children and adolescents has more than doubled globally since the 1980s (Weihrauch-Blüher et al., 2019). It has been acknowledged that this health issue is associated with adverse physical and psychological effects, and it tends to persist into adulthood (Umer et al., 2017; Ward et al., 2017). Although developed countries are less affected than developing countries, the prevalence of obesity differs across ethnic and other minority groups (Isong et al., 2017). Children of lower socioeconomic status are at a higher risk of development of obesity. The problem has been researched for decades, and various policies and incentives have been introduced to address the problem (Ash et al., 2017). School- and family-based treatment programs are seen as effective methods to decrease the spread of the disorder.

Prevalence

It has been estimated that approximately 30% of American children and adolescents are diagnosed with obesity or excessive weight (Kumar & Kelly, 2017). However, as mentioned above, different groups are affected by this health issue disproportionately. For example, in the USA, the rate of obese and/or overweight children younger than 5 years old has doubled since the 1980s, while the rate of afflicted adolescents had quadrupled during the same period (Rankin et al., 2016). The rate of the disorder among children pertaining to ethnic and racial minorities is higher compared to white Americans (Isong et al., 2017). The socioeconomic background is another factor associated with a high risk of developing the disease due to low access to high-quality health care.

Comorbidity

Childhood obesity is a serious health concern due to its high comorbidity and long-term negative effects. For instance, it is associated with the development of such disorders as cardiovascular problems, diabetes mellitus, and sleep disturbances (Kumar & Kelly, 2017). Some of the most common health problems linked to obesity include dysglycemia, dyslipidemia, hyperinsulinemia, arterial hypertension, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in girls, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH) (Weihrauch-Blüher et al., 2019). Psychological disorders associated with obesity are depression and attention deficit disorder.

Associated Consequences in Adulthood

As mentioned above, childhood and adolescent obesity often persist in adulthood, and it can also increase the risk of developing a range of health problems in adult life. The disease is associated with a higher risk of developing Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, colorectal and breast cancer in adulthood (Weihrauch-Blüher et al., 2019). Cardiovascular issues and psychological problems can also remain in adulthood.

Risk Factors

A set of aspects usually cause obesity in children, but the primary reasons for the development of the disorder are related to lifestyle. Genetic predisposition is one of the risk factors that explain the prevalence of obesity in some ethnic groups (Weihrauch-Blüher et al., 2019). Perinatal factors are also influential as a female’s eating habits tend to define the future habits of the child (Kumar & Kelly, 2017). Two key causes of the disease are excessive caloric intake, often combined with low physical activity. In many cases, psychological problems are associated with distorted eating patterns that result from the child’s inability to cope with problems in other ways. One of the most common environmental factors is family norms and habits. Cultural aspects are linked to this factor as well because families establish their dietary habits based on their cultural background.

Treatment

It is possible to identify three major types of treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity: clinical, pharmacological, and bariatric surgery. The first kind of treatment is the prevalent way to address the problem among the target population (Kumar & Kelly, 2017). Counseling and psychological assistance are the basis of this approach. Healthcare professionals help families to develop healthy diets and lifestyles, which leads to positive outcomes. Psychological issues that are common factors contributing to the development of the disorder are also addressed (Rankin et al., 2016). As far as the pharmacological treatment of childhood obesity is concerned, orlistat is prescribed to severely affected children. This medication is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this age group. Bariatric treatment is mainly used in adult patients, but recently this method has become utilized with adolescents, but only 1% of this population receives such treatment (Kumar & Kelly, 2017). The major focus is now on prevention and encouraging people to have healthy lifestyles.

Prevention

The US government makes considerable effort to address the problem through the introduction of diverse policies and acts. For instance, the federal and state governments impose strict rules regarding school meals, as well as the overall exposure of children to foods in the school setting (Weihrauch-Blüher et al., 2019). Various organizations, as well as educational establishments and other institutions, launch programs aiming at shaping the lifestyles and dietary habits of children and adolescents. Parents are involved in such projects as it has been acknowledged that parental involvement has a positive impact on the effectiveness of programs. The media are also becoming more responsible as the healthy lifestyle is now promulgated.

Conclusion

Obesity is a serious public health concern as a third of American children and adolescents are affected, which is estimated to lead to almost a half of the obese populations in several decades (Ward et al., 2017). The disorder is highly comorbid, and it is associated with a range of cardiovascular, psychological, and other diseases. All these health problems are likely to persist into adulthood if the problem is untreated in the early years. Diverse steps have been undertaken to address the problem, and the focus is on shaping people’s lifestyles. Appropriate calory intake and sufficient physical activity are major solutions that will help in addressing the issue.

References

Ash, T., Agaronov, A., Young, T., Aftosmes-Tobio, A., & Davison, K. K. (2017). Family-based childhood obesity prevention interventions: A systematic review and quantitative content analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1), 1-12. Web.

Isong, I. A., Rao, S. R., Bind, M. A., Avendaño, M., Kawachi, I., & Richmond, T. K. (2017). Racial and ethnic disparities in early childhood obesity. Pediatrics, 141(1), 1-13. Web.

Kumar, S., & Kelly, A. S. (2017). Review of childhood obesity. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 92(2), 251-265. Web.

Rankin, J., Matthews, L., Cobley, S., Han, A., Sanders, R., Wiltshire, H. D., & Baker, J. S. (2016). Psychological consequences of childhood obesity: Psychiatric comorbidity and prevention. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 7, 125-146. Web.

Umer, A., Kelley, G. A., Cottrell, L. E., Giacobbi, P., Innes, K. E., & Lilly, C. L. (2017). Childhood obesity and adult cardiovascular disease risk factors: A systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Public Health, 17(1), 1-24. Web.

Ward, Z. J., Long, M. W., Resch, S. C., Giles, C. M., Cradock, A. L., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2017). Simulation of growth trajectories of childhood obesity into adulthood. New England Journal of Medicine, 377(22), 2145-2153. Web.

Weihrauch-Blüher, S., Schwarz, P., & Klusmann, J. H. (2019). Childhood obesity: Increased risk for cardiometabolic disease and cancer in adulthood. Metabolism, 92, 147-152. Web.