Epidemic in the United States – Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States (Hatfield, 2018). Obesity is considered the most common chronic disease affecting more than 30% of children. Children who are obese are likely to stay obese into adulthood and likely to develop non-communicable diseases. The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has tripled since the 1970s and nearly 1 in 5 children in the United States are obese.
Obesity is defined as having an excessive accumulation of fat that increases body weight more by 20% or more over ideal body weight. (Hatfield, 2018) Being obese is different from being overweight, which means weighing too much for your height. Obesity happens gradually from consuming more calories than what’s recommended and being inactive. Calculating your child’s body mass index, which is weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters; is a good way of knowing if your child is obese. Obesity is divided into the following categories:
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class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
class 3: BMI of 40 or higher
Class 3 obesity is often referred to as “extreme” or “severe” obesity.
According to statistics, certain races have a higher risk for obesity than others. Latinos with 25.8% and African Americans with 22% are the highest populations. Whites with 14.1% and Asian with 11% have are the lowest populations. Not only does it differ by race but by age and sex as well. In 2015-2016, children ages 2 to 5 had 13.9%, children from 6 to 11 with 18.4% and children 12 to 19 had 20.6% were affected by obesity.
Signs and Symptoms
An obese child will feel isolated from peer groups and will be reluctant to participate in active sports due to being ashamed or embarrassed. The child will also tend to skip breakfast or lunch and indulge in late-night eating. Some experience compulsive overeating and find it difficult to control eating habits, secretly consume food when no one is around, and eat to prevent worrying. Other signs and symptoms of being obese are breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, low confidence and low self-esteem, back/ joint pains and fatigue. In addition, obesity may present other symptoms that u cannot physically see but can cause severe damage to your health such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels. These conditions increase your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. There are many factors contributing to obesity like genetic, social, cultural, metabolic and physiological ones. (Hatfield, 2018)In some cultures, love and prosperity is associated with obesity: these values in a modern family would lead the child to being indecisive about peer group or those of the family. (Hatfield, 2018)
Children are considered the priority populations for interventions and strategies for obesity. For obese children, it is important to help the child identify or discuss emotions associated with eating to determine if the child is eating to satisfy emotional need or physiological hungry. Implement a food diary to review calories, types and amounts of food and eating habit; this helps to identify patterns requiring a change. Also, be alert to binge eating and develop strategies to target these episodes. To modify behavior and avoid diet failure, encourage the child to eat at the table or designated eating place and avoid standing while eating.
As the parent or caregiver of an obese child, it is essential that you help the child gain control of his or her life by giving the necessary incentive to lose weight. To do so, follow the necessary teaching tips for an obese child. Teach child to eat slowly, count and chew each bite. Have the child use a smaller plate to make amount of food seem larger, suggest the child leave a little food on the plate at meal times. (Hatfield, 2018). Stock up on low calories snacks, carrots, celery sticks, and other raw vegetables. (Hatfield, 2018) Help the child get involved with an active team sport to occupy time and help burn calories like walking, hiking, swimming, bicycling or skating. (Hatfield, 2018) Promote walking instead of riding and reward each small success with positive reinforcement. (Hatfield, 2018)
Obesity is challenging to treat regardless of a child’s age. Most teenagers consume large amounts of high calorie, high fat foods with little nutritional value. Diets of nutritional foods take too long to show results for a teen who is eager to lose weight. Most children would consider quick weight loss programs, diet pills, and books. The treatment goal is to lose weight and keep weight off. Introducing summer camps that assist in weight reduction, exercise, and activity works for some children but is too expensive for others to attend. If parents or caregivers are not consistent with the child, then they will easily adapt their old habits back.
All in all, childhood obesity has been a major condition affecting children and increasing in percentages since the 1970s. If obesity is not treated while the child is young it will most likely affect the child in adulthood. It is essential to monitor intake of high calories and to increase or maintain physical activity to help reduce the risk of becoming obese. Participate in diet modifications and extracurricular activities to help reach weight requirements for your age (CDC, 2018)loss goal by showing support and making the child feel accepted.