Childhood Obesity

In today’s society, childhood obesity is a major public health issue all over the world. People who are overweight as youths have a higher possibility of being obese in adulthood increasing the disease risk. Obesity is known to affect the lungs, heart, bones, muscles, digestive tract, kidneys and hormones mostly those controlling puberty and blood sugar. On a global scale, 43 million children aged below five years are either overweight or obese. This is a 60% increase since 1990. Both the rich countries and the poor are affected by this issue though the greater burden is placed on the poor. It has been estimated that if the current epidemic remains unresolved, more than 60 million preschoolers will either be obese or overweight.

Though obesity rates are higher in adults as compared to children, the problem has been seen to escalate more rapidly in children than adults in some areas such as China and the U.S. in addition, though some regions still struggle with child hunger, globalization has made the world more wealthier. As poor countries develop, they move from the traditional diets to western diets leading to an increase in obesity rates. Surprisingly, it is challenging to track the global obesity rates since some countries do not have repeated reliable measurements over time.

In the U.S., obesity rates have tripled in the last three decades. The country has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world. 17 % of the children are obese while 33% are overweight. Though the rates have been steady since 2008, it has continued to increase among some groups. Obesity is more common in boys as compared to girls in America. Obesity rates have also increased in Canada with the rates doubling since the 1970s and in some groups tripling. However, rates in Canada are lower than in the U.S.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean, more children are overweight than underweight. In 2010, 7% of the children aged below 5 years were overweight. In Europe the obesity rates among children aged 4 years vary from country to country with Spain having the highest rate of 32% and Romania the lowest rate of 12%. For the school aged children, 24% of the children aged 6-9 in Europe are overweight based on a 2007-2008 survey.

In Africa, underweight due to malnutrition has been a pressing issue given that 20-25 percent of the children who are preschoolers are underweight. However, obesity rates are also increasing in Africa. Preschoolers’ obesity rates more than doubled in Africa in the last two decades. A closer look reveals that the rates are higher in North Africa than other parts. In Asia, there is diversity among the regions and child hunger remains a concern. While obesity rates are low in the south Asian countries, the higher population in these areas leads to a large number of children with obesity. For preschoolers, obesity rates are higher in Western Asia than other regions in Asia. In Oceania, obesity rates have double digits in the two developed countries which are New Zealand and Australia.

It is clear that the obesity rates are on the rise globally. With globalization, poor countries are developing thus improving their standards of living. An obese child will most likely be obese as an adult, thus is significant to prevent obesity in children and avoid life time health problems. Education and awareness through the media and internet would go a long way in the reduction of obesity.  In addition, given that the menace has spread wide, it will take time for its control to seem successful. The global organizations such as WHO should initiate massive awareness programs to help reduce the occurrence rates. The treatment of the affected has proven to be expensive.

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