As an after school teacher, I have the privilege to work with many wonderful children. These children mean a lot to me because I get to know them personally and they bring a lot of happiness and joy to my life. However, many of them make me worry because they currently are faced with a very tough battle with obesity. It makes me very sad to see healthy children playing games such as running, jumping, and chasing each other around, while the children with obesity sit and watch, questioning why they are incapable of keeping up with everyone else. Obesity is robbing children from enjoying the best years of their lives. This is a time in which children should be worry free and when the hardest decision should consist of what toy to play with next. Excess body fat causes children to be the target of bullying and teasing by their peers. Being overweight lowers children’s self esteem and causes severe health related problems. Children that are obese, unfortunately are following the blueprint for a miserable life. As a teacher I feel the obligation to learn possible ways in which obesity can be prevented and inform parents on the future expectations and projected outcomes an obese child will have if their lifestyle does not change.
Makayla is one of my students at the after school program I work for. She weights about 100lbs at the age of 9. Sadly, Makayla constantly needs her asthma pump after doing simple physical activities such as walking up the stairs. Her peers always choose her to be “it” when playing the game Tag because she cannot keep up to tag them. Makayla is not alone. Childhood obesity is a growing public concern. “Recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that over the last 3 decades, the number of obese children aged 6–11 years has tripled, and the prevalence has doubled for preschool.”( La Merrill, Birnbaum 22). Unfortunately this epidemic has been increasing over the years. Many question what has caused this disease to reach so many more children. According to Professor T.J Cole “Diet, physical activity and the familial psychosocial environment are all well established as risk factors for obesity in childhood”(Cole). What children are eating, the amount of time spent active, and psychosocial setting has changed and affected their weight significantly.
In the 21st century children are eating fewer home made meals. “ Fast food is a prominent contributor to caloric consumption, and has been directly linked to higher obesity rates among children and adolescents”( Elbel 493). Studies have shown that Fast food is a key factor in excess calorie intake, causing obesity to escalate at an enormous rate. Parents are responsible for the lack of ambition to feed their children nutritionist food. Unfortunately parents are buying their children fast food because is more convenient, appetizing, and cheaper. “ A series of focus groups involving 9- to 12-year-old children and their parents, most from lower- middle socioeconomic groups, yielded two primary findings: the children regarded low-fat food as unappetizing, and the parents reported that the high cost of fruits, vegetables and 100% juice explained their relative unavailability at home”(Elbel 494). Unfortunately money plays big role on the food choices we make. Fast food restaurants make it easier and affordable making the consumer think twice before buying healthy food.
One of the main reasons why obesity in children has increased over the years is because current technology has taken over children`s enthusiasms from active games. In a recent study researchers found that “Eight- to 18-year-old children reportedly spend 1.1 hours a day playing video games and up to 6.1 hours a day of total screen use [which includes television, computers, video games]”(Roberts). Children are dedicating too much time in activities that requires very little physical activity. Staying active is crucial for the development of children. Big calorie intake and low physical activity is a deadly mix that fuels the fire for the obesity epidemic.
Child obesity is a very big concern because it negatively impacts children. Not only does obesity affect children physically but psychologically as well. When a child is obese, many parents see it as “baby fat” and expect the child to lose weight by adult hood, but that is not the case. “Overweight and obese children are four times more likely to become overweight adults, thus leading to major chronic illnesses such as type-two diabetes, heart disease, and cancer”(Laframboise 256). If the lifestyle of obese children does not change they will grow up to have a poor health related quality of life . Not only will they physically be impacted, but psychologically as well. According to Davin and Taylor authors of Comprehensive Review of Obesity and Psychological Considerations for Treatment “ psychological vulnerabilities among the obese are consistently reported in literature and data show that many obese individuals suffer from negative self-perceptions, low self-esteem, body-image disturbances, sexual problems, less interpersonal contact and poorer social skills, all which may increase the risk for psychological disorders” (Davin, Taylor 717). Obese children grow up to be very self-conscious and have very low self esteem because they are constantly teased about their weight, body image, and incapability’s. They also have a very hard time building relationships because many try to avoid “the fat kid”. Obesity traps children into unhappy and depressing lives, all in which can be avoided if treated correctly.
Unfortunately obesity is does not stop at the individual, but it is “multi-factorial and has been recognized as heritable” (Kelund 325), so it actually travels to future generations. Obesity can continue on like a cycle if not stopped, having various effects on society as a whole. A study called The Health Care Cost Implications of Overweight and Obesity during Childhood has revealed “that for all children aged 4 and 5 in 2004–2005, those who were overweight had a combined 5-year Medicare bill, approximately $9.8 million higher than that of children who were normal weight”( Au ).Children who are overweight visit the doctors more frequently and have higher medical bills than children who are not. As the obesity population increases health insurance rates will also increase, making it almost impossible in the future to afford health insurance. People are usually obese because of their large food consumption. Since the obese eat more food, more food has to be produce, creating shortage of food, and in the future making food more costly . Eventually obesity makes people incapable of performing basic life operations, not alone work. Since the obese population cannot work, society must support them, causing taxes to increase. Obesity can disrupt the community their financial situation. When someone is obese, it doesn’t not just affect the individual, but society as a whole.
Obesity its such a major problem many people have tried to tackle obesity by implementing changes. Children spend about 6 hours a day in a school setting, the nutrition the schools serve plays a very an important role. In a research article in Journal of School Health stated that “ The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) served approximately 31 million lunches and more than 10 million breakfast meals per day in 2008, representing approximately 35% of the daily caloric intake for NSLP participants and 16% for SBP participants”(Phillips 433). In order to reduce child obesity many school systems have decided changed the menu in the schools. One proposed way to improve children’s consumption of fruits and vege-tables is to increase the number of schools that offer salad bars as part of the National School Lunch Program. A group of policy officials, the National 5-A-Day Partnership, has proposed that all schools have salad bars as a way to increase the number and variety of fruits and vegetables that children consume at school (Neumark-Sztainer 437). Schools are implementing more nutritious foods such as fruit and vegetables. They are also providing children with more organic rather than preserve foods. This solution was very effective at school because children are eating healthy at school, but it still does not change children’s entire diet because eventually children go home to eat junk food provided by the parents.
Fast food chain restaurants spent a significant amount of money on advertisement. “A study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy ; Obesity charges that fast-food companies are marketing to youth now more than ever-increasingly targeting children as young as two years old-using various media”(Morrison). “In the fist half of 2010 the fast feeder spent $45.6M on Happy Meal advertising”( Wood 21). If McDonalds continues to spend such significantly amount money on advertising toward children is because is effective. The “influence of a toy is much stronger for kids than parents in a kids’ meal-purchasing decision. About 87% of six- and seven-year-old kids and 80% of kids ages eight and nine said they enjoyed getting a toy with their kids’ meals”(Wood 20). A simple toy calls for children attention and makes children want to go to Mcdonalds.
To tackle obesity, many have tried to ban fast-food advertisement directed toward kids. “Researchers concluded that a ban on televised fast food advertisements could reduce the number of overweight children by as much as 18 percent”( Wood 21). With all the risk factors obesity brings parents are still not making healthy choices for their children, “in the last 30 years, the percentage of money spent on food purchases outside the home has risen to 25% and now accounts for nearly one-half of Americans’ total yearly food expenditures” (Thyroff 433). The money spent on fast food restaurants just keeps increasing over the years. Even if McDonalds stopped advertising toward children the parents of children are the ultimate decision makers. McDonalds will only change the menu if the customers were to stop buying their unhealthy choices however the data above proves, that is not the case, now more then ever parents continue to purchase fast food for their children despite its negative effects.
Obesity has become such a great issue that it has encouraged many to create initiatives to combat obesity including the First Lady Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has launched an anti-obesity campaign called Let’s Move. “Let’s Move is “ a nationwide campaign with a single goal: to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that children born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight”(Obama). Mrs. Obamas wants families to make “manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes” (Obama). “Lets Move” wants to provide parents with the necessary tools to keep their families healthy and fit. The First Lady wants to have schools attain more nutritious food, help grocery stores serve communities that don’t have access to fresh foods, and find new ways to help children stay physically active in school and at home.
Mrs. Obama has been traveling the country seeking for all the help she can get to reduce obesity. Since “this campaign began, several major school suppliers have already agreed to improve the quality of their food[,]…the nation’s largest beverage companies have agreed to provide clearly visible information about calories on the front of their products.. [and] The American Academy of Pediatrics has begun urging its members to screen children for obesity and to actually write out prescriptions for parents detailing how to address it” (Obama). A Web site has also been created called LetsMove.gov that provides tips on eating well and staying fit. Let`s Move is implementing changes to improve the lifestyle of children with the help of “PTAs to food manufacturers, to elected officials, to school food-service employees” (Obama). With the help of everyone including parents, schools, and companies, if children start participating in active activities, and have a nutritious diet, obesity`s growth pattern can be stopped.
The government and the schools can do everything that is their hands to stop obesity, but parents are ultimately key players for the solution. The schools system have changed their menu, the government has proved “about $300 million in grants for anti-obesity programs”( Benac E385), but according to the First Lady “the ultimate solution to the obesity problem has to come from parents, schools and communities working together, not an edict or a dollop of extra dollars from Washington” (Benac E385). The parents must support and contribute to weight loss programs for children because children need more than a diet and moderated exercise to tackle obesity. They are in need of their parents support.
Parents are key players in childhood obesity and they are the solution to win this war. Parents want to help because they usually want the best for their children, but they just don’t know where to start. The Governor of Connecticut should provide funding for events that will allow parents to learn ways and techniques on how to help their children combat obesity. Health fairs, are great because professionals can teach parents about body fat, calorie intake, and guide them in the right direction to improve the quality of their child’s life. Workshops are also very successful in teaching parents about obesity, and its possible outcomes. Field days allow the obese community to participate in sports, nature walks, and also learn about fun ways to improve their health by being active. Participating in such events allows for socializing among people who face mutual obesity problems to encourage one another. Getting organizations such as the YMCA to help on creating a health and fitness day is a very good idea. The YMCA can let the community use their facility and this will encourage parents to acquire gym memberships for the whole family. Being that parents often struggle with being overweight themselves, workshops, health fairs, and field days are a great way to change both the parent’s and the child’s life.
In theses health and fitness related events, parents can learn about good nutrition. Many parents are clueless about calories, serving size and type of food their child should eat. In these events parents learn how to encourage their child to participate in physical activities. Also teaching parents on how to restrict the amount of TV, Internet, and video games is crucial in this life changing process. Educating parents can be the solution to fight off obesity.
Obesity is a very hard challenge because it`s not easy to bring changes to an individuals lifestyle. But, making the obese community realize how much happiness this changes will bring to their life will definitely make them not give up. For that reason obesity cannot be treated in isolation. Support needs to be extended to the family in a way that empowers and is non-judgmental. In the past others have only looked at obesity and made a plan for the child to eat better and exercise more. The truth is that parents need to be the main source of changing the lifestyle of children and themselves. Tackling obesity is not an easygoing mission, the individual has to be very motivated and parents need to provide children with that motivation and drive to stay on task. Along with the funding of wellness and fitness events , the Governor of Connecticut must also provide obese children with professional help. Psychologist, doctors, personal trainers, and nutritionist are essential to help children succeed through this life changing experience.
Being that children`s lives are at stake. My solution is the best way to address the problem because parents will be more involved and disciplined with children. The two main components of obesity which are food intake and physical activity will be targeted, therefore their will be actual changes and improvements in the child’s life. It is very important that this problem is fixed because children need to have a better quality of life and if it’s not stop now the cycle will continue to future generations and we cannot let that happen.
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