Childhood Obesity: Can It Be Stopped?

November 1, 2012
Due to technological advancements in the 21st century, as well as the increased availability of processed, unhealthy food products, the epidemic of childhood obesity has been on the rise for the past thirty years. The high number of overweight children can be attributed to many factors, including genetics, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Studies show that a child has a higher risk of becoming obese if both parents are also obese, genetically or otherwise. Obesity is a plague among the youth of America, now that over 60% of children are considered overweight. The statistics involving the epidemic are shocking, and have made childhood obesity one of the main problems America faces today.

In recent years, the severity of the situation has been brought to the attention of the public, leaving many people wondering who is to blame for this sudden outbreak in unhealthy habits amongst children. As suggested by the aforementioned study, the parents of overweight children hold some responsibility over their child's condition. Most kids develop eating habits based on their environment. If American families continue to buy snack foods loaded with sugars, fats, and preservatives, the obesity rates will continue to increase generation by generation. However, parents are not completely at fault. Computers, video games, and televisions are killers of outdoor activity among today's youth. A survey in 2010 revealed that children ages 6-11 are watching more than 28 hours a week of television. The amount of time kids are spending in front of back lit screens rather than engaging in physical activity is having devastating affects on the upcoming generation.

Growing up as an overweight child is more than just a self-esteem problem. Although obesity will effect the child psychologically, the physical consequences are just as severe. According to numerous studies, over 70% of obese adolescents had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Prediabetes is another possible outcome of poor dietary habits in children. The excess weight takes a toll on their joints and causes sleeping problems as well. As if these issues weren't bad enough, statistics show that the older the child gets, the lower their chances get of losing the weight by the time they reach adulthood. By the time an obese child reaches six years old, their chances of becoming an obese adult have gone up by 50%. Like a large tornado racing towards a small town, the cycle of obese child to obese parent is almost impossible to avoid once it's begun.

So how can Americans put a stop to the inevitable? Well, a few solutions are already being put into place by organizations such as the Division of Adolescent and School Heath, as well as individual activists for the cause like Michelle Obama. The best solution to weight gain among children is providing them with access to a healthier lifestyle, rather than enabling bad habits with the availability of junk food. Obviously, there is no simple cure for obesity. But soon, you might notice that the calorie count of foods are being displayed right up on the menus of popular fast food chains like McDonald's. Also, smaller portions and alternative options (such as apple slices rather than fries) can be found at many food establishments. Another effective weapon against unhealthy eating habits is the control of what is being provided to children at schools. Vending machines nationwide are replacing sodas with water and vitamin-infused waters, eliminating the sugar-filled sodas from the students' diets. The only way to really combat this issue is by creating healthy environments in both the schools and in homes, paired with regulated physical activity.

Childhood obesity and obesity in general carries with it an artillery of health risks. The fact that so many children in America are having to struggle with being overweight, most for the rest of their lives, should encourage parents and school officials to focus more on the health and well-being of the kids. Not only will it give them a longer, healthier life, but soon the next generation will be responsible for the future. How will they run the country if their lives are being shortened year by year? An epidemic as severe as this one should not be ignored.

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