Obesity in the early developmental stages of an individual has in the recent past become a severe public health issue. It is a condition that occurs when a child is way heavier in body weight as compared to his/ her height and age. In the United States, in particular, the cases of childhood obesity has rapidly increased over the years especially in children between the ages of 7 and 12 years. Statistics have however reported that there has been a reduction in the prevalence of obesity recently. However, in 2012 states further that approximately 17% of children living in the US were obese. The cases of obesity were most common among children between the ages of 11-19, and it recorded the lowest cases among children below five years (Brosco, 2016). The Obesity cases in the last thirty years have been analyzed to affect children of all ages. The difference in the kind of obesity children exhibit have, however, differed based on race, age, gender, ethnicity as well as the geographical position. There is a close association between childhood obesity and obesity experienced in adulthood. In both cases, this condition is likely to bring about severe health complications and an increased medical cost. Therefore, a clear understanding of childhood obesity may bring about early discoveries in remedies that may assist in improving health status at all ages.
Even though the obesity prevalence exhibited in children living in the US has been well analyzed and documented, there is minimal knowledge when it comes to obesity. For a given age group, the obesity prevalence is a composite of concurrent and preceding incidence and children remission (Brosco, 2016). Having detailed information on obesity prevalence at a specific age is vital when it comes to the elucidation of peak obesity periods. This is because it assists in the identification and maximization of intervention opportunities as well as reducing the costs incurred in the health care system. In the US, the increased conditions of obesity in children have been linked to many reasons and factors.
The consumption of high quantities of calories among children together with food and beverage with relatively low nutritional value has resulted in an increased case of obesity in the US. Children enjoy consuming lots of junk foods other than nutritious food like broccoli, fruits and other forms of green vegetables. These junk foods such as burgers, pizza, and chocolate contain very high quantities of calories. To add to this, they also include a substantial amount of fat that is likely to realize some excessive weight addition among children without their knowledge. Additionally, it has been seen that children other than just consuming high calories in one sitting, they engage in sedentary kind of activities such as playing consul games, watching television and browsing (Brosco, 2016). These activities render them dormant when it comes to exercising and in the long run they put on some excessive weight over time. Sleep patterns among children in the US have become irregular due to excessive playing of video games and watching TV. Having an irregular sleep pattern, i.e., staying up late and waking up late the next day in addition to the consumption of high-calorie foods, results in obesity within a short period.
Community environment is also another factor that has resulted in obesity among many children in the US. The exposure of children by parents to an environment that is not supporting healthy habits makes it hard for them to make healthy choices on what to eat. Such places may include communities, centers for child care and schools. These places are likely to interfere with the diet of the children through what they are given to eat. They also interfere with the physical activity of the children by offering sessions such as sleeping sessions after feeding. This habit results in dormancy and the children, in turn, become obese due to reduced physical exercises essential for burning up excess calories in the body (Brosco, 2016). Similarly, other factors in the community that has affected the diet and physical activities of many children in the US include social support, affordability to healthy foods as well as policies determining the design of a community.
Childhood obesity in the US has had detrimental consequences over the past years. Many of the children with this condition have developed various health complications. These complications include sleep apnea and breathing difficulties, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes among other complications. It is heart breaking to see a child, only 13 years of age with a complication such as cardiovascular diseases (Brosco, 2016). Further research has shown that a lot of obesity cases experienced in most of the children in the US, other than feeding habits, they are related to other aspects. These aspects include decreased self-esteem and a general Quality of Life, subjection to vices such as stigma and bullying which may cause psychological problems like depression. It is a central area of concern in the US because there is a probable likelihood that obese children may grow into obese adults, which is a future health risk. There is an association between adult obesity and other health related complications such as cancer and type 2 diabetes (Brosco, 2016). Childhood obesity is more likely to result in severe difficulties in adulthood if not carefully addressed. It is therefore essential for concerned authorities to come up with intervention strategies that will assist in preventing childhood obesity. The relevant authorities can adopt the following strategies to reduce the rate of obesity among children in America.
Taxes and prices
Over the last decade, healthy foods have become more expensive as compared to junk food. In order to promote healthy eating among children as well as adults, the US government should hike the prices of unhealthy foods and decrease the costs of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. This will leave the children with no option, other than to use the available food at their disposal. Similarly, increasing taxes on unhealthy foods would go a long way in reducing their consumption (Hawkes, 2012). For instance, in the past increasing taxes on tobacco products was found to reduce their consumption significantly. Placing higher taxes on unhealthy foods would have the same effect. Proceeds from these taxes can be used to support obesity prevention initiatives such as physical education in schools or market incentives produce more fruits and vegetables. Governments can also remove subsidies such as tax exemption on soda and snacks to increase their prices and reduce consumption.
Another strategy would be to implement policies that improve the perception and image of healthy foods and reducing the appeal on unhealthy foods. One way to do this is to restrict adverts that target children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, any advertisement targeting children is deceptive and misleading because children do not have the sense to make informed decisions (Hawkes, 2012). Complete elimination of food advertising on TV can reduce rates of obesity among children.
Physical activity and education
Educators can be employed to raise awareness of the severity of obesity and the complications that come with it. The local authorities should also refurbish the recreational systems such as parks and roads to encourage a culture of outdoor activities and walking (Warnecke et al., 2016). Nutritionists should also look to hold sessions to educate the children together with their guardians about healthy diet choices and lifestyles to avoid the risk of the diseases. Similarly, teachers and educational stakeholders can be involved to educate the population and to also incorporate physical activities in school curriculums (Warnecke et al., 2016). Making physical education mandatory in schools will help create a culture of exercise which will, in turn, reduce rates of obesity among teenagers and children. Parents and other family members can be included in the overall support, rehabilitation, nutritional needs, and education.
In conclusion, childhood obesity is among the leading factors that contribute to severe conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases in childhood as well as adulthood. It negatively impacts the physical and psychological health of children in the US. It is therefore essential for local authorities, healthcare stakeholders, and other community stakeholders to adopt the above intervention strategies to help deal with the issue of obesity not only among children but also in adults before it becomes an even bigger disaster in the country.
Brosco, J. P. (2016). Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic by Laura Dawes. Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 90(1), 172-173.
Hawkes, C. (2012). Promoting healthy diets and tackling obesity and diet-related chronic diseases.
Warnecke, R. B., Oh, A., Breen, N., Gehlert, S., Paskett, E., Tucker, K. L., … & Srinivasan, S. (2016). Approaching health disparities from a population perspective: the National Institutes of Health Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities. American journal of public health, 98(9), 1608-1615.