Over the past decade, one half of all Americans have been diagnosed with obesity or being overweight. This means the past three years obesity among children has tripled. Childhood obesity is considered the number one health threat in America. Childhood obesity has become a major issue facing America. And today over “nine million” (Selicia 4, May) United States children are overweight and obese. Sadly “2 million” (Tanner 2005) of these children are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Obesity has become a burden to the United States economy and it is costing America “$147 billion” (Holden, 2010) a year. A child does not become overweight and obese overnight. America, Parents, society and the government are to blame for the obesity among American children.
Obesity has been around for many years, but it has always been addressed has an adult problem. Unfortunately, obesity has now been discovered in children. It is rated the deadliest issue America has encountered. The numbers of overweight and obese children have increased. One out of every three United States children is considered to be obese. Most overweight and obese child is at risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type 2 diabetes. According to Sandra G. Boodman (Jun 13, 1995) “studies have found that 40 percent of fat 7-years-old will grow up to be overweight adults, while 70 percent of overweight children between the ages of 10 and 13 will become fat adults." Children who become obese adults can suffer from many more health issues than the ones previously named. Obesity found in adulthood increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and a general poor health status.
Americans have labeled obesity as the terror within. It is perceived to be the cause of over “300,000 deaths in America alone each year” (Shelly Branch 2002). A child's excess weight at a young age has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood. According to Sandra G. Boodman (Jun 13, 1995), numerous researchers have found that “obesity runs in families: A child with two fat parents has an 80 percent chance of being fat as an adult; the risk is cut in half if only one parent is obese. By contrast, a child of two normal-weight parents has a 14 percent chance of growing up to being fat”. Children adopt the habits of their parents. A child who has an overweight parent who eats high-calorie foods and is inactive will likely become overweight too. However, if the family adopts healthy food and physical activity habits, the child's chance of being overweight or obese is reduced. Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem and negative body image.
In rare cases, obesity is not necessarily due to the child being overfed or eating too much. Childhood obesity can also be caused by a genetic medical, psychological, genetics, lifestyle and environment”. Hypothyroidism Cushing's disease, diabetes and certain medications, notably steroids, some antidepressants, and high blood pressure drugs, and seizure medications can all cause a person to become obese. These medicines can slow the rate at which your body burns calories, increase your appetite, or cause your body to hold on to extra water. All of these factors can lead to weight gain. It is without a doubt that many children tend to overeat when faced with stressful life circumstances in an effort to escape from their pain such as coping with divorced parents, bullied in school, anger, and loneliness. Children also overeat in response to boredom, depression, and anxiety. The Endocrine Society (2009, June) “A new study connects abnormalities of the "stress" hormone cortical with symptoms of depression in obese children, and confirms that obesity and depression often occur together, even in children”.
Today's children are becoming less active, spending excessive amounts of time in front of the television, computer, and video games. Children are spending less time engaging in outdoor activities such as sports, bike riding, running, jumping rope, climbing trees and exercising. It is proved that the lack of physical exercise and activity is the number one reason for the increase in obesity (Regulatory intelligence, 1998). “It is estimated that children in the United States are spending 25 percent of their waking hours watching television and statistically, children who watch the most hours of television have the highest incidence of obesity” Robinson, T. N. (2001). It is also known that busy families are replacing a well-prepared nutrition meal with fast food and microwave TV dinners due to busy schedules and fewer free moments. Children with working parents are more likely to become overweight and obese than children to stay at home parents. As stated by Butcher and Levine (2003) “children left unsupervised after school will make poor nutritional choices and engage in more sedentary activities.
Many Child care providers do not offer as many opportunities for physical activity. They offer less nutritious food and alternatives. And most unsupervised children spend a great deal of time indoors, due to safety concerns, watching TV or playing video games rather than engaging in more active outdoor pursuits”. One-third of all American children between the ages of 4 and 19 eat fast food on a daily basis, the amount of fast food eaten in America has increased more than 500% since 1970.
The government and society are at fault. They are to blame! They should all be held accountable for the overweight and obesity among children. Taxes are paid to the government to educate and protect society. So why can't the U.S. government enforce safer streets? Many families claim their neighborhood is unsafe. And due to unsafe neighborhood children do not have the ability to play outside, walk to school, or even ride their bikes. According to (Blythman, 2004) research done by New York University found that “neighborhoods with decreased economic and social resources have higher rates of obesity. They also found that residents in low-income urban areas are more likely to report greater neighborhoods barriers to physical activity, such as limited opportunities for daily walking or physical activity and reduced access to stores that sell healthy foods, especially large supermarkets”. Low-income areas have less access to parks and healthy food.
America and society are to blame; a child spends up to 8 hours at school each day. A child eats at least two or three meals in school five days a week. Schools are not providing children with the nutrition they need. Schools are substituting nutritious healthy meals with deep fried congealed chicken parts, hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers, all of their fast foods favorites just without the brand names. “Nutrition is completely ignored within the Elementary school systems today with no opportunity for young children to learn about nutrition” (Ruskin, 2003). Schools are making junk foods available for children. Children are served with chips, cookies, sodas, and candy bars. “60% of all elementary schools have a vending machine and 19 out of 20 high schools have a vending machine (Ruskin, 2003)”. According to the study,” for each can of soda drank each day, a child is 1.6 times more likely to become obese (Ruskin, 2003)”.
Although schools are set limits for how much fat and sugar a school lunch should contain, there is no one enforcing that those limits be met. There has also been some cut back on physical activity such as gym and recess.” In a growing number of studies, diminished opportunities for outdoor playtime have been linked with school difficulties, increased childhood anxiety, disconnection from nature, attention deficit disorder, and the epidemic of childhood obesity (Gross-Loh, 2007)”. Researchers believe that giving at least” 5 hours of physical activity a week could reduce obesity by 43% (Childhood obesity, 2004).”
Parents cried out that society has let them down and has taken over their children's lives. Many moms argue that society has made it impossible to even obtain healthy food; junk foods are cheaper and more affordable to buy than fresh vegetables and fruits. Grocery stores built in high-income living areas offer a fresher selection, and healthier foods, whereas grocery stores in low-income areas, carry cheap unhealthy food in bulk.
In today's world due to the very poor economy, both parents must work full time just to make ends meet, and afford decent food, clothes, and shelter for their family. And in today's society working tired Parents are not involved in their children's lives as much as they desire to be. Moms and dads are finding it very difficult to engage in outdoor activities with their children and are simply taking the easy way out by keeping the child indoors. They reward their children with the latest technology such as toys, cell phone, computer and video game to make up for not being there. Obesity is not something that occurs overnight. According to Amina (2010, January 19) study on “childhood obesity points the finger at parents who either refuse to acknowledge their child's weight problem or do not act to help them lose weight”. Parents are setting a bad example for their children.
A parent should be better educated in preparing nutritious meals and accept responsibility for their overweight child. It is the parents that do the shopping, cooking, and the serving in the household, not the child. A parent should not be influenced by children. Children should not be allowed to pick and choose what to eat and when to eat it. Parents should accept the blame. Parents should stop pointing a finger at advertisers. These parents need to gain control of their house and enforce healthier food choices. This means saying goodbye to the sugar-sweet cereal, the pop, the candy, the chips and so many other unhealthy food choices. According to (Healy, 2010) from 1977 to 2006, American children have added “168 snacks per day to their diet: this increase in snacks is adding to a child's waistline, along with inactivity children are becoming heavier more than ever before'. Parents are lazy and allowing TV, computer, and video game to raise their children. Parents are over feeding their children. Parents should encourage children to exercise on a regular basis by getting involved and introducing children to physical activity such as bike riding, sports, and a walk around the block. An action has been taken against parents with obese children, parents are being labeled as neglectful parents and in some cases, their children are being taken away. According to (CBS News in South Carolina) “a mother lost custody of her 14-year-old, 555-pound son in May. She was arrested after missing a court date to examine whether she should retain custody after doctors had expressed concern about her son's weight to social services. This mother is facing criminal child-neglect charges”.
It is clear to say many Americans' claims that obesity is an individual responsibility and can't seem to agree on who's at fault for obese and overweight children. But the fact of the matter is a child should not be held at fault for his or her battle with this deadly disease. A child is not given the right to make his or her own decision about their lives and should not be held accountable for their battle with obesity. Parents, schools, economy, grocery stores, marketing companies, the fast food industry should, and the United States government all be held accountable for the obesity epidemic. If the environment of a child is poor, then the health of a child is more than likely to be poor as well. According to Judy a Rollins (2004) “The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report reviewing more than 40 studies on the role of media in the nation's dramatically increasing rates of childhood obesity. The report concludes that the majority of scientific research indicates that children who spend the most time with media are more likely to be overweight”.
Fast food is everywhere.” Fast food is in our face constantly. It is advertised on television, radio, the Internet, billboards going down the road, and you even get flyers in the mail with coupons for fast food” Cheryl Briggs (2009, February 19). Within a period of one year the average child views “40,000 ads on TV” (Kunkel, D. 2002), these ads are attracting the attention of children and youths. These major advertising and marketing campaigns are enlisting children's favorite TV and movie characters such as Dora, Toys Story, Sponge Bob, Flintstone and Scooby-do on candy, cereal, soda and fast food. Research indicates that exposure to food advertising has affected children's food choices and requests for products in the supermarket. “Major food and beverage corporations spend at least $1.6 billion a year to convince kids to eat unhealthy foods”. Young children aren't able to separate reality from marketing causing them to be receptive to what their hearing and seeing. According to Ruskin (2003) “during a half-hour children's show on YTV between 5:00 – 5:30 there were 13 commercials ranging from fast food, sugary drinks, and unhealthy snacks that bombarded the screen. When these numbers are calculated together, it means that over the span of a week a child can be viewed over 500 commercials just about food alone”. As stated by Cheryl Briggs. (2009, February 19) when times are bad financially it actually increases the obesity rate “With higher food prices, higher gas prices and rising unemployment, people cut back on the quality of the food they buy. Good food costs more, it has to be prepared and cooked, whereas junk food is easier to acquire, it tastes good and children love it. It is actually easier to spend less and eat more.”
Childhood obesity was not caused by a single hand and should not be dealt with us so. America, society, parents and our government should all joint hand to hand and work together to help put an end to childhood obesity. Our government should educate parents about cooking and preparing healthy meals. Parents should daily enforce excises in a child life by getting active with the child. “Obese children can maintain a new weight much easier than adult” (Ruskin, 2003). Our government should also comprehend and take into consideration that innocent lives are being shortened due to the high consumption of fast food, and unhealthy food. Children are the adults of the future. What parents and society teach children will carry out in the future and will shape communities to come.
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