Endemic Childhood Obesity in North America

Introduction

In North America today, one of the worrying issues is the rising cases of child obesity and this has been attributed to many causes. An obese child has an excessive fat in the body. To gauge a child obesity levels, most physicians use the body mass index (BMI). Some experts have defined child obesity as when the body weight of a child is about twenty percent higher than that of a healthy child of the same age.

Obesity is one of the leading medical problems that are affecting United States children as well as the youths. This is true of other developed countries. Approximately 15% children and teenagers living in United States of America are obese according to a research conducted by American Obesity Association. This number is expected to increase in the future if necessary steps and precautions are not taken into consideration. Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges that are facing the Americans at the moment (Choi, 283).

Causes of childhood obesity

There are various causes of childhood obesity and chief among them is dietary causes. The eating habits of children have a very large effect on the children’s body weight. However, controversies are arising from this cause because there was a study that was held in the United States and there was no a circumstantial evidence to prove that poor dieting was the main cause of childhood obesity. This is because more than 1,700 children were studied and were strictly given only two meals per day which were very healthy by all means.

Apart from the meals the children were also subjected to physical exercise programs and dietary counseling and this failed to show a significant reduction in the obesity cases among the children. One of the culprits of childhood obesity associated with diet is the consumption of soft drinks and eating at fast food outlets. There is also the substitution of sweetened drinks for milk and these have increased the calorie intake of the children and have also contributed to the rising cases of childhood obesity in the North American region (AAP, 129).

Many children have also been subjected to a lifestyle which does not require them to be involved very much in physical activities. This kind of lifestyle is referred to as sedentary lifestyle. Many children these days have been subjected to such a lifestyle that most of their time they are inactive and this can be attributed to technological advancement and economical well being of the region. This is because whereas children in other regions are used to walking to various places likes school and church, the children in these times are driven to such places. Furthermore, the children have been restricted on their playing habits with the parents citing rising cases of insecurity.

Stationary activities are the key things in the children’s lifestyle at this modern time. These activities include watching television and playing on the play stations. The children of modern times also have to spend most of their time in schools and this means that they are also subjected to little physical activity. Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of obesity and this has been extended even to the children (Hedley, 89).

Childhood obesity is also accrued through a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Experts have identified some polymorphisms in various types of genes that are actively involved in the control of metabolism and appetite and they subject children to obesity when there is a sufficient intake of calories in the body. This is one of the examples that help in showing that obesity can also be brought about various genetic conditions that can be present at any age, even during childhood ages.

It is important to note that a significant number of obese children have a condition accrued to locus mutation. It is also evident that obese parents are more likely to sire an obese child than parents of a normal weight. This can be deduced to mean that obesity is somewhat inherited because chances of obese parents having obese children are eighty percent compared to a mere ten percent to parents of normal body weight (Wang, 56).

The home environment is also another leading cause of childhood obesity. This is because many parents in the region let the children have their own choices of meals. Children are known to like things that have high calories and hence the rising cases of childhood obesity. One example is the case in which a study was conducted in the United States and four out of five parents admitted that they let their children choose what they were going to eat.

This means that children of these homes will have little to do with vegetables as their meals and instead will opt for sweeter foods. It is in this respect that the children will also opt to have sweetened drinks instead of whole milk. Children cannot be expected to make decisions about their feeding because they are most likely to be unhealthy decisions. However, most parents in this region have given the children the liberty to choose their feeding behavior and the result is the increasing rate of childhood obesity (Hedley, 65).

Another cause of childhood obesity is attributed to developmental factors. A good example is breastfeeding which is believed to be capable of protecting obesity in the future. The body growth pattern of a child may also cause obesity and this is associated with the standard deviation of length and weight. The weight of a child may be affected when the child is still an infant. Fat babies at birth and during infancy were more likely to be obese in the future than children of normal birth weight and infancy weights (Olshansky, 36).

When to seek medical care

It is important to seek medical care if your child starts showing signs of weight complications. One of the most important times to seek medical care is when there are reports from school personnel or other officials that your child is overweight. This is because they have the best experience on the child and if they note that a child is overweight, their judgment is correct and should be taken into consideration.

It is also important to seek medical care when your child starts complaining about his or her weight. This is because this may result in other complications and one of the most feared is low self esteem. It is also important to seek medical care when your child is finding it difficult to keep up with other children in physical exercises or sports. This means that the child will suffer from low self esteem and hence this should be taken into consideration (Moyers, 125).

Obesity tests and exams

Some various tests and exams are used in testing obesity. One of these is the weight-to-height table which gives normal ranges of healthy weights forgiven children’s height. Many physicians start treating obesity when a child’s weight is more than 20% more than the healthy range. However, these tables never take into account the individual child’s characteristics. A health care worker needs to determine the actual age of the child and also follow the individual child’s growth pattern.

There is also the percentage body weight which keeps the fat as a convenient marker of obesity. This has been set to a twenty five percent of body fat for boys and a thirty two percent body fat for girls. However, body fat percentage is very tricky to accurately measure and hence the need for special equipment which is not readily available in most medical centers (Hedley, 72).

Another way of diagnosing obesity is through Body Mass Index (BMI) which is used to assess a child’s body weight in relation to his or her weight. This method is also used on adults when assessing obesity in adults. However, its use on children faces a lot of controversy and is not accepted universally although it is the standard method used in assessing adults’ obesity (AAP, 98).

Another means of assessing childhood obesity is the Waist Circumference (WC) and is very important because it is used to evaluate the chances of a child contracting other life threatening conditions in the future as an adult. It is used to assess a whole lot of conditions ranging from High Blood Pressure to Type 2 Diabetes and a contingent of other diseases. It is usually performed by the use of a tape measure around the areas around the belly button and any case that is over the 90 percentile is at a very high risk of contracting the diseases in the old age (Olshansky, 36).

Effects of childhood obesity

One of the most common effects of childhood obesity is that the child may suffer ailments in the present or the future. Although there are not many ailments associated to obesity have been found in children, adults who have been obese from the time of their childhood have various ailments that are rooted to the problem of obesity. The adults suffer from such diseases as diabetes, heart diseases and high blood pressure and high cholesterol problems. Childhood obesity can lead to a contingent of other life threatening conditions and organ conditions like liver and heart conditions. It can also bring about some forms of cancer (Choi, 272).

One of the most worrying effects is the psychological and emotional problems the children are subjected to. This is attributed to the fact that the children are sometimes made fun off by their peers and some children still feel not belong to their social class in school and neighborhoods. Another effect attributed to emotional and psychological problems is the low self esteem that is evidenced in the children who are obese. This is mainly brought about the children being teased by their peers as well as their feeling unwanted in their social circles (Wang, 55).

One of the most worrying effect is the increasing number of children contracting Type 2 diabetes, a disease which in the past was not common to children but to adults only. The situation is likely to worsen because during the twenty years, children and adults that have contracted this disease have risen to fifty percent and considering that today a quarter of all children struggle with obesity, the statistics are likely to worsen. It is even more terrifying to note that obese children mostly grow into obese adults and this means that type 2 diabetes will affect many people in the future. As more people become obese, the more people who become type 2 diabetic. This diabetes is very dangerous because it can even cause the body to form resistance against insulin (Tremblay, 294).

Another concern is that the children are also likely to contract asthma. This is more common in boys than in girls. No allergic children are more affected by asthma than allergic children. It is also in the same respect that obese asthmatic children suffer more than asthmatic children of normal body weights. Obese asthmatic children also are more prone to wheezing and they also require a lot of medication and treatment than asthmatic children who are of normal body weights. Asthmatic children who are obese also visit the emergency rooms more often than asthmatic children who are of normal body weights (AAP, 119).

The psychological effects also have long lasting effects on children. One of the biggest problem is the low self-esteem that many children are subjected to when they suffer from obesity. The children face discrimination from many quarters in their social interactions and this has brought about psychological problems to the children. This also affects their performance on many fronts like academic and other social functions. A study conducted in the United States, obese children when asked to rate their life quality, most of them scored equally as patients under chemotherapy. The study also concluded that obese children do not trust themselves in day to day activities like socializing among other activities (Moyers, 119).

In a funny turn of events, the psychological problems may lead to the children having eating disorders. This can be rooted from the fact that in today’s society, beauty and physical appearance are highly encouraged and especially in girls where they are encouraged to exercise and stay fit. However, obese children take this as one of the impossibilities in their lives and hence the psychological problems. Psychological problems have been connected to eating disorders in many people and hence worsening the problem instead of rectifying the problem (Olshansky, 36).

Prevention of childhood obesity

Parents have a responsibility and can play a very important part in preventing and avoiding childhood obesity. Many parents tend to reward their children with sweet things like candy and ice cream. They also avoid bad behavior by giving these things which only help in increasing the children’s body weight. The accumulation of fat and calories in the body leads to obesity which we have seen can lead to life threatening conditions. The parents have a responsibility of coming up with other solutions so that they can prevent childhood obesity (Choi, 283).

Avoid the clean plate policy which dictates that a child must eat more than is necessary for his or her satisfaction. The parents need to be aware of the hunger cues of their babies and children. Some parents force their children to continue eating even after they have declared that they have been satisfied. Parents should avoid forcing the children to continue eating even after they have indicated that they have been satisfied. Parents should reinforce the idea that the children should eat when they are hungry. This can play a very important part in avoiding childhood obesity (Tremblay, 362).

Parents should also refrain from talking about bad foods and should endeavor to remove all snacks and sweets from their kids’ diets. This is because this foods are causing a lot of problems when the children become obese and the effects of obesity set in. It is common for children to rebel and even want to overeat the ‘bad foods’ when away from home and sometimes even sneak them into their bedrooms. This can be avoided if the parents refrain from talking about ‘bad foods’ or removing entirely the foods from their children’s diets (Hedley, 89).

Parents should also avoid subjecting their children to various situations which can bring about psychological problems. Psychological problems have been connected to eating disorders and these are major causes of obesity. This means that parents should try and not stress or depress their children in all fronts of their lives. Major issues that can bring psychological problems include domestic violence, parental absence among other issues. This has contributed a lot to the rising cases of childhood obesity which is causing more problems (AAP, 129).

Prevention and treatment of childhood obesity

The parents, guardians and teachers have a task to help a child suffering from obesity by means of support and encouragement. Like we have seen, many children are faced with psychological problems when they are suffering from obesity and this means that the parents, guardians and teachers have a task to support and encourage the children. This is meant to increase the child’s self-esteem levels and also feel loved and cared for. This gives a child a sense of belonging. In the same respect parents should not criticize such a child as this will have an adverse negative effect on the child’s outlook and self esteem (Sturm, 56).

The most important thing to note is that obese children do not have weight loss as a goal. So the parents should not force the children to be engaged in activities that result in significant weight loss but should encourage the children to be involved in activities that result in stopping weight gain. If the child must lose weight, then reasonable and realistic goals must be enforced on him, a good and practical goal being the loss of not more than two pounds per month (Moyers, 125).

Long term changes have to be implemented in the home environment and the children should be utterly discouraged in engaging in behaviors that lead to the condition. This is one of the most effective way of preventing and treating childhood obesity (Wang, 56).

Conclusion

Child obesity is one of the leading health concerns in the region of North America today. This means that a lot of effort has to be made to control the rising cases of childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is associated with a lot of life threatening conditions in the future life of the children with a contingent of terminal diseases associated with the condition. This means that the condition must be handled with a lot of effort to save the future lives of our children.

Works Cited

AAP Policy Statement: Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics. 2003.

Choi, C. (2006) “Attitudes on obesity are Lightening Up, Poll Finds. “Lifestyle Health and Fitness. Seatle PI.

Hedley, A.A., Ogden, C.L., Johnson, C.J., et al (2004). Prevalence of overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999–2002. JAMA.

Moyers, P., Bugle, L., Jackson, E. (2005) Perceptions of school nurses regarding obesity in school-age children. J Sch Nurs.

Olshansky, S.J., Passaro, D.J., Hershow, R.C., et al. (2005) A Potential in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. N Engl Med.

Sturm, R. (2005) Childhood obesity – what we can learn from existing data on societal trends, part 2. Preventing Chronic Disease.

Tremblay, M.S., and Willms, J.D., (2003) Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity? Int J Obesity.

Wang, G. and Dietz, W.H., (2002) Economic burden of obesity in youths aged 6 to 17 years: 1979-1999. Pediatrics.

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