One of the biggest problems in society today is childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition in which children are above the normal weight and height for their age. The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing rapidly every day at an alarming rate. “Since 1980, the childhood obesity rates… have tripled — with the rates of obese 6- to 11-year-olds more than doubling… and rates of obese teens… quadrupling” (Crowley). Over 30 percent of the American population is considered overweight or obese. “Obesity rates among adults and children in the United States have steadily risen in the past few decades. About 18.4 percent of 12-19 year olds are overweight or obese and childhood obesity often continues into adulthood” (Arbor). As a community, what can be done to influence families of the help that is needed?
Low-income communities generally lack places for children to play and safely stay active. Since city parks have a higher chance of being in a safer and higher-income locations, parents that live in low-income communities should do everything they can to convince their community leadership they can take care of what they do have. Doing so could increase the confidence that they’ll take care of any new parks or playgrounds that are built. Speaking with the city council or writing letters to congress about the low availability of side walks and parks could raise local awareness that obesity in children is rising each day.
Grocery stores also play a role in the recent negative trends. Supermarkets are typically placed in locations throughout communities where the business can make more money; therefore, taking availability of convenient healthy foods away from the poor communities. Having fewer supermarkets can lead to the promotion of low-nutrition fast food services. As people take in less nutrients from their food, they begin to have less energy to be active.
These fast food services often times do not even require people to get out of their cars to order their food, which allows the patrons to put forth minimal physical effort to eat. This makes people gain even more weight and become even more unhealthy, creating an ouroborus effect, where the problem basically feeds itself to become worse. Further compounding the problem is that fast food companies provide inexpensive toys to promote business while providing unhealthy, fattening foods to children.
Another major contributor to the unhealthy nature of low-income families and individuals is the insurance industry. With insurance rates at an all-time high, it is very difficult for low-income families to get the appropriate health care they need. “Thirteen percent of children in families with an income less than $20,000 and 17% of children in families with an income of $20,000-$34,999 had no health insurance, compared with 3% of children in families with an income of $75,000 or more” (Doyle, p.80).
Outside of the societal causes of obesity within communities, there are also other factors to consider when it comes to the health patterns of individuals. Communities today cannot afford to downplay the importance of physical activity in children. Staying active helps fight the prevalence of anxiety and depression, both of which are major contributors to obesity. When a child sits inside alone, in front of any technologically advanced device, it can lead to psychological problems. The child’s social skills typically do not develop properly when they are unable to interact with other children.
This, in itself, can cause a child to feel socially uncomfortable around others and can cause them to develop emotional problems. Staying physically active and playing outside with other children allows the child to develop socially and emotionally with others while lowering the chances of obesity. One way to fight this is to turn video games into a privilege or reward for the child, where they earn video game time for good grades or perhaps for other physical accomplishment outside the home, instead of letting them be an everyday activity that keeps them locked indoors with no incentive to exert their physical energy.
Obesity in children can lead to many life-threatening illnesses later in life. About 300,000 people die from weight-related illnesses that are brought on by obesity each year. “About 29.1 million Americans or 9.3% of the United States population has type II diabetes” (CDC), which, simply put, is caused by a low-nutrient, sugar-heavy diet typically consumed by those who fight obesity.
Other problems associated with obesity include psychological issues, which can become extremely serious and can lead to mental, physical, and emotional ailments. Then there are other physical, cardiovascular problems such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease/failure, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and hyperlipidemia. Obesity can also increase the likelihood of developing bone disorders like osteoarthritis, growth abnormalities, and lower extremity joint and bone disorders.
Some of the best resources for help are parents and educators. Speaking with these individuals can help gain awareness about the problem at hand. There are many programs available to assist with weight gain disorders, including some put on by the American Heart Association, the Lets Move! Campaign, and STEPS. The American Heart Association joined with the National Football League to develop a program known as the NFL Play 60 initiative. This program encourages children to be active for at least 60 minutes per day. Staying active for this amount of time can help reverse the growing trend of childhood obesity.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama made it a priority to aim at curbing the rising rates of childhood obesity by founding the Lets Move Campaign. This program was designed in 2010 as a direct way to solve the problem of obesity in children (Office of the First Lady, 2016). Obama’s overall goal is for there to be an easier way for children to experience a healthy upbringing and a longer future. Her program was the first obesity campaign to ever come out of the White House. This may be one reason why the Lets Move Campaign has joined so many different organizations such as the NBA, NFL, and Disney. The joining of these organizations gives children something to look up to. It inspires children to become healthy like their idols that are athletes or actors.
STEPS is a community based childhood obesity program that helps families with children establish the patterns that will keep kids healthy and strong. STEPS focuses on the health improvement of children that have a body mass index above the 85th percentile for their age group.
With the help of these programs and initiatives, there are enough resources available for families to help this growing rate of obesity in children. A great start would be for more parents in poor socioeconomic communities to step up to the available resources that are given and take action that is needed. If these resources aren’t available, demand they be made available by any means necessary, to include involvement of the city, county, state or even Federal government.
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