Obesity in children is a health disorder which has become a pandemic whose frequency has tripled over the past decades. It results from not doing enough physical exercise and eating too much calories. It is also estimated that children who are obese may grow to become obese adults. These children are not only obese but they also experience a lot of medical complications and have a great risk factor of contracting a heart disease. Cardiovascular mortality which has been achieved over the past may go up if the cases of obese children continue increasing. Obese children are affected physically, psychological/mentally and even in the way they relate with their peers. The current state has been attributed to the modern lifestyle which promotes unhealthy eating habits. For example, majority of the parents concentrate too much on building their careers such that they hardly have time for their children. This forces them to rely on fast foods to feed their children since it is easily available and is cheap. Once the children are exposed to unhealthy foods and are engaged in less physical activities, they end up being obese(Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica p.14-15). This article will discuss the various causes and consequences of obesity in children. It will further highlight the preventive techniques of overcoming this disorder among children. Childhood obesity not only affects a person’s early life but also the adult life; it can be prevented by observing a healthy lifestyle.
Childhood obesity has grown from a national concern to become an issue that calls for a global response. It only affects the children and the parents but also the pediatricians and policy makers given that the rates keep rising. It is one of the easiest conditions to diagnose yet it proves to be the most difficult to eliminate. This is because it forms as a result of a gradual process whose solution requires a change in lifestyle. For a person to be considered obese the BMI is greater than 35 and they belong to the most risk class of people Every year 300,000 are reported to die from health issues associated with overweight and obesity (Poskitt and Laurel p. 126).
The institute of Medicine declared the prevention of this pandemic a national priority which required immediate response. Obese children are likely to experience obesity related health issues in their adult life if a change in lifestyle is not initiated. This disorder is most common in developed countries and among the urban population. Majority of the people in these populations have diverted from physical forms of leisure to passive leisure as dictated by their busy lifestyles. This is unconsciously passed on to the children who opt to do activities like watching the TV or do video games which do not involve the body physically. This issue needs to be addressed because as the number of obese children increases, so does the number of health complication (Orpana, p.214).
Causes of Obesity in Children
Lifestyle is the main cause of obesity among children and this is influenced by the nature of parenting that is provided. In these modern times, parents are very busy building their careers and earning income such that they have very little time to attend to their children. They do not have the time to prepare healthy nutritious meals for their households. The young ones end up consuming these foods and even other tinned foods. Business people in the fast food industry have concentrated in ensuring that the fast foods are readily available cheaply. Other artificial foods are also being advertised in the TVs and are attractively arranged at the child’s eye level in the supermarkets. Even schools provide junk foods and soda while reducing the time allocated for physical education making the children more passive (Blass, p. 371).
The situation is further deteriorated by the fact that these parents do not have the time to supervise outdoor activities of the children and provide them with indoor activities. The children enjoy watching TV, playing video games and other indoor activities which do not engage the body physically. The living standards have also gone high such that most people will opt to go for the cheap foods which may not be nutritious. For instance, grocery stores in urban areas have reduced and offer vegetables at an expensive price. This reduces the population’s ability to access fresh fruits and vegetables which are more nutritious than the abundant unhealthy fast foods (obesity (Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica, p.15).
Effects of obesity on children
Obesity affects the health of a child resulting to multiple health complications that reduce the quality of a child’s life. When the cholesterol levels are high in the body, the child strains to do simple activities which are easily performed by his/her peers. This is because the cholesterol levels increase the work load for the cardiac muscles. Overloading the muscles in the heart puts the child at the risk of developing hypertension or even diabetes later in life. Such health risks makes a child’s life very complicated because the child cannot develop normally as normal children. It also disrupts normal functioning of the body which results into abnormal growth and development. Such a strenuous life resulting from unhealthy eating and lifestyle can be rectified by changing lifestyle. This adds value to the quality of life in childhood and greatly influences the adult life (Rowland, p.1).
Another effect of obesity in children is the discomfort that they experience during sleep. A child’s day is full of activities and a good night’s sleep in a requirement for healthy development. However this is not the case with obese children because they experience difficulties in breathing which often disturbs their sleep. They end up developing the sleep apnea condition which makes a child to turn and toss in bed. High cholesterol levels also disrupt the functioning of the body hormones which makes obese kids to develop adult features at a young age. For instance, young girls may experience menstruation much earlier than expected. These children normally have a huge weight which cannot be supported by their bones and joints. It results to a spoiled body posture and other permanent effects on the bone structures which makes them very prone to accidents (Rowland, p.1).
An obese child is also affected psychologically and mentally especially in terms of body image and self esteem. Since these children have special features which attract their peers and other society members to taunt them, they are often embarrassed by their bodies. This feeling of inadequacy makes a child develop a low self esteem and may even turn out to be a social misfit. They become emotionally disturbed and may be overcome by depression to develop suicidal tendencies. Their mental health is affected and the nature of the problem is a continuous one given that they cannot hide their physical body. This is very unfair to a young child who deserves a life full of adventure and fun activities to enhance growth and development. Leading a healthy lifestyle can offer a solution to this and promote healthy growth (National Obesity Observancy, p.8- 9).
When a child is psychologically disturbed as a result of obesity, the child loses his/her self worth and takes the position that the society dictates. For instance if the rest of the peers think that the obese child is lazy, the child will grow to become a lazy adult since this is embedded in the mind early in life. The child cannot grow with a vision and become successful since the notion that he/she is inferior in the society is strong in their minds. In most cases the child will have a poor economic status as an adult and may even have a lower level of education. This is because an obese child has very little interest in physical activities that strain the body. Lack of physical activity results in a slower development of the body organs and this includes the brain. The child also lacks social skills and is cannot interact and learn from the peers hence he/she is left behind in school work. An obese child generally has a lower immunity which results to an increase spending on medical bills. This causes an economic strain on the parents and also on the nation as a whole. The health costs directed at health care for obese children are also rising (National Obesity Observancy, p. 9).
Childhood obesity affects children, the parents, health care providers and the society as a whole. The situation can easily be avoided by observing a healthy lifestyle right from childhood. This is initiated by parents and the people serving in childcare institutions. Prevention of obesity is a gradual process which when followed provides a permanent solution to the increasing cases of this disorder (Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica p.17).
Possible solutions to childhood obesity
The environment in which children grow greatly influences their health and the government should give obesity prevention a priority. This can be affected by involving the government in planning for the location of schools and fast food facilities. The way parks and recreational facilities operate should also be controlled by the government to ensure that more healthy habits are instilled in children. This is then further promoted by establishing public health campaigns and education programs to sensitize children and parents on healthy lifestyles. For the obese children and adults they can be assisted by supporting extensive programs and research among the high risk groups. This should go hand in hand with programs that support nutrition and physical activities that engage the obese and high risk groups (Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica p. 6-7).
A child’s environment is greatly influenced by the commercials that promote the consumption of particular products. The food and beverage industry should share a responsibility for the obesity in children. They should expand to healthier options to the consumers especially the high risk groups by providing products with fewer calories in smaller portions (Torrey p. 15). This way the cases of obese children will go down and healthy living will be promoted. Products like tinned foods should have a clear nutritional labeling to give the consumers an opportunity to compare the products for them to choose healthy products (Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica p. 9-10).
A healthy community can be established by encouraging the children and youth to engage in physical activities. This can be supported by allocating places for sports, bike riding, skating and other physical games. Today this is not the case because priority is given to motorists while pedestrians and bicyclists are neglected. Health care providers also have a role to play by advising parents on the weight of their children and diet. They should give recommendations to the children and the parents to ensure that families lead healthy lifestyles. Schools also play a major responsibility in a child’s health status since a lot of time is spent there. The issue of obesity should be addressed by teaching in classroom as well as coming up with programs that also include physical education. Teachers should work with the parents to ensure that the children are brought up in a healthy way free of obesity (Liverman, Jeffrey and Vivica p.12).
Childhood obesity is a disorder that affects a person’s early life as well as the adult life. It is a situation that can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle. Childhood obesity develops slowly and progresses to affect a child’s physical, mental and psychological health and this affect the general growth and development. It dictates the success level of a person’s socioeconomic status in future. Preventing this disorder is a collective responsibility that involves the government, the communities and the schools that children attend. If the environment in which children grown up is sensitive about healthy lifestyle, it is easy to prevent this condition. Leading a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits is the first step towards eliminating obesity in children and even in adults.
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