I. Public Health Problem
Child Obesity has been a known health issue for decades and the number of children and adolescence that are being diagnosed increase every single day. Being obese is expressed as the accumulation of irregular or excessive fat that may follow with the risk to impair health. A child can be identified as obese if their body mass index (BMI) is higher than the 95 percentiles, which is a measurement of height and weight proportion [Eneli, Woolford, Hassink, 2018]. The fluctuation growth and abnormality of one's BMI score implies how vulnerable these group of children have in developing diseases that will negatively impact their quality of life. Since the 1970s, statistics on these obesity rates have tripled, and about one in three children and adolescence are considered obese in the United States [Ali, 2018]. Moreover, childhood obesity exists due to the lack of education society has on creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the youth. Children and adolescence in today's society lack the attention they have for their bodies and do not realize the affects that can alter their everyday life.
There are many factors that contribute to child obesity and are associated with a combination of influences in the child's everyday behavior and environment. One of the more prominent factors is the imbalance of food consumption and physical activity. The nutritional intake a child has must be high in nutritional value in order to promote healthy development and growth. Therefore, children must know what they are consuming and how much they can [Hammer, Robinson 2013]. With the combination of a better diet comes an expansion of the amount of exercise one must do; choosing high-calorie and low-nutrient foods is not preferred if there is not an equal balance of energy expenditure. Physical activity allows the promotion of physical and mental health and has more of a likelihood to prevent future risk of chronic diseases. Regular exercise assists in controlling weight, building muscle, reducing stress, as well as growing self-esteem for those who practice the habit [Greene, Williams, 2018]. The equality of the types of food one eats in association with physical activity exerted is a personal responsibility, or rather, a personal choice.
Additionally, to the balance of energy intake and expenditure, another heavy factor in childhood obesity is the consuming of unhealthy foods due to socioeconomic inequalities in dietary intake. This factor affects one's health that is not due to their own choosing. High occupational socioeconomic classes are able to afford healthier foods. Children in low income households do not have the easy opportunity to obtain high nutritional foods [Ranjit, 2015]. As organic and home-cooked meals become more expensive and harder to afford, fast-food prices are still as cheap as ever; therefore, parents serve unhealthy, energy-dense foods to save money. While less expensive, this can typically cause an overconsumption for food, and lead to the risk of obesity [Ranjit, 2015].
Childhood obesity typically occurs in a variety of situations. One example is that a diet can be a factor of choice. With no other factors that can come in a way of a healthy diet and exercise routine, an individual is capable of making a choice on how to treat their health. Another way obesity is able to come forth is the fact that schools or child care centers affect a child's diet through the foods and drinks that they are able to provide as well as the amount of exercise they allow them to exert. School districts and child care centers usually provide unhealthy snacks as they are cheaper to provide to larger groups of children; they are also able to decide how much time in the day children can go outside and exercise [Bussell, 2018]. Although this may be conflicting with the time of education and studying, it is still important to exercise good health for the well-being and future of the child. A very common area of the occurrence of child obesity includes lower socioeconomic school districts as they cannot afford quality foods for the students as well [Bussell, 2018]. As schools are very prevalent to the everyday lives of children, they must be able to satisfy their nutritional requirements.
Childhood obesity has a high risk for chronic diseases in the child's future. Obesity during childhood is more likely to cause obesity in adulthood. Unfortunately, this can lead to a wide variety of health conditions that is capable of substantially affecting one's overall quality of life. Some of the most common short-term effects involves high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both creating a larger chance for cardiovascular disease in the future [Ali, 2018]. About 70 percent of children who are considered obese were discovered to have cardiovascular disease as a risk factor [Ali, 2018]. The more long-term effects include Type 2 Diabetes and cancer. Type 2 Diabetes is a health condition where one's body is not able to metabolize glucose correctly, thus leading to nerve damages or kidney dysfunction; cancer from obesity is caused by high body fat resulting in it being inflamed, causing damage to DNA [Roth, 2016]. Therefore, these risk factors are very severe to the future and health of the child if one wishes to prolong their current lifestyle.
The etiological factors to childhood obesity start with the type of dietary intake and partners with the amount of energy being expressed to balance it out. Since balancing energy intake and energy expenditure play a huge part in childhood obesity, there are other factors that are able to interfere with its balance. These factors include genetic and social aspects of nutrition and health [Ali, 2018]. In a genetic standpoint, there has been the discovery of the FTO Gene that is found to be related to binge-eating and obesity in adolescents. As for a social aspect, a family's involvement is quite important for the management of a child's health, thus resulting in energy balance and excessive fat deposition if the rest of the family does not partake in a healthy diet as well [Hammer, Robinson, 2013].
II. How to Solve the Problem
There are several ways on how to reduce or solve child obesity. One way is to simply educate society, especially parents, on how to pick up the habit of a healthy lifestyle. One should spread the awareness of how common child obesity is in our society, increasing the knowledge of factors that associate with an unhealthy and healthy diet in schools daily. This way, children can change the way they eat as well as starting a healthy diet from an earlier age and parents can begin a healthy plan as soon as their child is born as well. With dietary and physical activity diets being set forth earlier in life, it can set for a better future in the well-being of the child. Moreover, in addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle, advocating and donating to public health interventions such as The Steps to a HealthierUS, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative that provides funding schools and communities in order to recognize and progress influencing health to reduce the burden of obesity [Frieden, 2017]. The organization has also taken the initiative to recognize schools that strive to improve a healthier community and it allows easy access to high-nutritional valued foods to those of lower socioeconomic status, thus reducing the risks for child obesity [Frieden, 2017].
With child obesity being prevalent not only in the United States, but worldwide, some countries have taken the lead to help reduce the risk of being diagnosed with it. In 2011-2013, Hungary and Mexico started to tax certain unhealthy food items, identified as non-essential components to a person's everyday diet [Belluz, 2018]. Furthermore, obesity risk numbers started to decrease as junk food purchases went down seven percent since the two countries started taxing [Belluz, 2018]. As more positive outcomes come into play, there is a chance that other countries will try experimenting with the method soon.
One of the most impactful assistance to monitoring a child's diet occurred about eight
years ago, with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010. This was First Lady Michelle Obama's health program, which fought against childhood health risks and improve diets that aimed to help neighborhoods with high poverty children and others around the nation. Michelle Obama emphasized how a child's diet is important to their overall way of life as well as their performance in schools; moreover, an important factor that can affect all of that is from increasing access to healthy foods in their school lunches. She wanted to improve the nutritional intake and encouraged more physical activity to students throughout the nation [Mansfield, Savaiano 2017].
III. Public Health in the Future
Prevention of childhood obesity should have a multidisciplinary and multi-actor approach because of its multifactorial nature. Doctors and caregivers encourage the involvement of parents, teachers, business, and the community to develop healthy lifestyle by being role models and a support system. Children are surrounded by these figures every single day, so it is quite common for them to inherit or adapt certain habits people convey. The actions that these people can do include serving appropriate portion sizes, reward good behavior, encourage exercise, as well as get involved in community activities like sports. Moreover, government and community level involvements are also important as they are able to implement healthiness in advertising and marketing [Kim, 2016].
I believe that it is completely possible to reduce or prevent the risk of child obesity as well as improve the health of the obese in order to live a healthy lifestyle. A big step is changing a person's dietary intake to include important nutrients for the body and incorporating a consistent physical activity routine can make a great impact in their health. In addition, I believe that reading and being educated upon the potential risks one's body can go through is already substantial to reducing or preventing child obesity. Just knowing the outcomes from a change in diet and exercise can get someone to be aware about avoiding negative conditions. I know people may say it is difficult to start a change in lifestyle, especially if they feel that it is too late, but anyone can make a difference if they act and put their minds to pursue an ultimate healthy goal. It will take time to recognize that a healthy lifestyle can make an impact physically and mentally. You just have to take the first step.
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