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Obesity is a crisis that is affecting many countries, their most vulnerable citizens being children. Bad eating habits, high calorie intake, genetics, and lack of activity or exercise are some of the elements that, either combined or individually, are the cause for childhood obesity in America, Latin America, and many other nations. In the United States, rural areas have higher rates of childhood obesity, as do Hispanics and Blacks (Davis 2011).
Keywords: Obesity, Childhood.
Childhood obesity is a topic I identify with really well. It had a profound psychological impact throughout my childhood. Being overweight or obese was difficult to understand due to my lack of knowledge at a young age. Consequently, bullying, rejection, and health issues were some of the psychological and health-related traumas I had to face in school and life. I always found some comfort in my best friend, food. There might be many kids from different countries who, like me, could be going through psychological trauma without knowing the reasons for their childhood obesity, the health consequences of being obese, or even if there is help available to control their obesity.
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Obesity is considered when a child reaches a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 95 percent or greater (Gordon, Adair 2010). Parents, under stress and spending most of their day at work, often have little to no time to prepare healthy meals — a common contributing factor to childhood obesity (Morrissey, Dunifon, and Kalil 2011). Moreover, access to low-cost meals high in calories such as chips and sodas, tailored to appeal to children, exacerbates the problem (Cornwell & McAlister, 2011). Genetics also play a role. A woman who gains a certain amount of weight during her gestational period has a higher risk of having an obese baby (Bloonpleng and others, 2013). Lastly, obesity can be caused by lack of exercise. This often happens when a child feels bad about themselves and consequently avoids playtime with peers, finding solace in the internet, food, and television instead (Soric & Misigoj 2010).
Obesity can have serious implications for a child’s health and wellbeing. It can result in depression, exclusion from playground games, or feel unaccepted by their peers (Sanchez, Pitrou, et al., 2010). Just like adults’, children can suffer from insulin-resistant syndrome, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, blood clotting tendency, and type 2 diabetes, even in children as young as five (Lancet, 2002). An obese child may also face other health issues like sleep apnea and asthma. Black and Hispanic children living in the United States have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease than the average white child (Lancet, 2002).
A program called APPLE (Active Program Promoting Lifestyle), which aims to control childhood obesity, focuses on reducing calorie intake in American children at risk for cardiovascular disease. They do this by increasing vegetable consumption and promoting physical activity (Lancet, 2002). The government is also playing an active role in mitigating childhood obesity. Measures such as limiting the availability of fattening foods and implementing calorie count regulations on sodas and fast food in school cafeterias are examples of government-led initiatives (Bloonpleng, 2013).
In conclusion, there are several factors contributing to childhood obesity. Whether it’s a result of overfeeding, genetic predisposition, or lack of physical activity, it is a global issue affecting children around the world. Obese children are at risk of developing medical and psychosocial complications that can lead to adult morbidity (Lancet, 2002). Therefore, it’s encouraging that the government and other organizations are focusing on mitigating and ultimately eliminating childhood obesity. This disease can be cured.
Early intervention in controlling overweight could be the key to preventing the disease childhood obesity might be. Awareness of portion size and training new parents to recognize when and how much a child should eat to avoid overfeeding (Skoranski, 2013) are key ingredients in the cure of childhood obesity.
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