Child Obesity in America and the Future

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One in three American kids is overweight or obese; triple the rate of obesity from 50 years ago. More often than not, obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle. Although genetics can be a factor, it is more common now for children to be obese or overweight because of environmental and behavioral factors. Childhood obesity could reduce life expectancy by 5 or more years. Seventy percent of obese children already have one risk factor for heart disease, as well as being fifty two percent more likely to develop asthma. Child obesity has quickly become one of the most serious health challenges of the 21st century.

Lack of basic nutrition on knowledge among parents may be causing the majority of childhood obesity. Only two percent of children in the United States are eating a health diet. The social economic status of these families is a significant contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. Adults with a higher socioeconomic status are more likely and willing to eat healthier than adults with lower socioeconomic status. A survey of high school seniors said that only three in ten students are eating vegetables nearly every day. Of the vegetables consumed a quarter of those vegetables were French fries or potato chips.

Psychological factors also play a significant role in increasing the risk for childhood obesity by influencing dietary choices as well as the amount a person eats before he or she feels satisfied. Because children are dependent on their parents for providing meals, their parents’ choices primarily determine their diets. One of the factors that influences a parent’s meal related choices for his or her family is the level of chronic stress she or he is experiencing. Low-income parents are particularly at risk for high levels of chronic stress, due to the financial and emotional pressures of food insecurity, low-wage work, lack of access to health care, inadequate and long-distance transportation, poor housing, and neighborhood violence.

When parents feel stressed, they may buy more fast food for their children in order to save time or decrease the demands of meal arrangement. In addition, people who are stressed and/or depressed are more likely to seek the quick pick-me-up derived from tasty food that is highly pleasurable and rewarding. The New York Times investigated how scientists employed by fast food companies strategically “design food for irresistibility,” utilizing fats, sugars, salt, and flavor additives as part of their business plans. It is these engineered foods that stressed parents are most likely to reach for to feed themselves and their families.

Students from each grade between Kindergarten and eighth only fifty percent of all schools have district or state requirements for students to receive nutrition education. The percentages only decrease as the students go into high school with it being only twenty percent in 11th and 12th grade. Without healthy nutrition being discussed regularly it is only natural that adults and understandably children are forgetting about healthy nutrition. Children are also not being as physically active as they should be at their age to maintain their health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children aged 6-17 year should get sixty minutes of physical activity a day. Children rarely achieve this target because of the lack of a mandate to require schools to offer physical education combined with the decrease of involvement with extracurricular sports.

Children’s environments are also saturated by the presence of media. Children spend 44.5 hours a week in front of electronic screens. Screen time amounts to nine hours a day for children of ethnic minorities, more than the six hours a day watched by white children. Not only are children moving less when they watch television, but they are also more exposed to the media’s messages. Low-income youth are exposed to disproportionately more marketing and advertising for obesity-promoting products that encourage the consumption of unhealthful foods (e.g., fast food, sugary beverages) and discourage physical activity (television shows, video games) according to a report issued by the Institute of Medicine. 0% of the ads broadcast on children’s networks are for fruit or vegetables, while 34% of the ads are for candy and snacks. Such advertising has a particularly strong influence on the preferences, diets, and purchases of children, who are the targets of these marketing efforts. Simply viewing an ad once can create a preference for a child, impacting what the child will ask his parents to purchase. Therefore, the media’s suggestion of unhealthy habits easily infiltrates the home.

Physical activity regulates weight by stimulating the metabolic, endocrine, and hormone processes of the body. Unfortunately, children have become increasingly sedentary over recent years. Cultural trends have also followed a path towards the sedentary lifestyle. It has been suggested that the increase in availability of air conditioning in the summer has led to inactivity during times of the year when children typically were outside playing and getting exercise. The American car culture of the Twenty First Century has also led to the replacement of active walking with driving. Twenty five percent of all US trips are less than one mile, yet seventy five percent of these trips are by car. As people become more accustomed to driving, they walk to locations even those close by less and less.

The intertwined nature of the risk factors for childhood obesity may seem overwhelming and leave clinicians, researchers, and policy makers feeling hopeless about their ability to slow this epidemic. The biopsychosocial model suggests that by creating even a small change in a child’s behavior, a well-designed intervention program has the potential to significantly reduce obesity by creating a ripple effect that will be felt throughout the system. We need to be able to use the educational system to teach every about a healthy diet, the benefits to your health, and the consequences of an unhealthy diet combined with a very sedentary lifestyle.

We need to allow education to low income parents on how to provide healthy meals to their family on their limited income instead of the fatst food that is a leading cause in the obesity epidemic. We have to incentivize children to indulge themselves in physical activity on a daily basis to the point where it becomes fun for children to exercise. There need to be more advertisements on television and social media teaching kids the benifits of a healthy lifestyle while also heavily taxing asvertisements that advertise unheathy lifestyle choices hopefully alloeing children to become more accustomed to healthy food and exercise. This hopefully will allow knowledge to be passed down through generations eventually causing obesity to be a thing of the past and allowing the country and world to become healthier.


Cite this paper

Child Obesity in America and the Future. (2021, Feb 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/child-obesity-in-america-and-the-future/

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