Childhood obesity is a national public health crisis, which constitutes to over a third of Americas young people who are obese. Obesity is a problem that is associated with a serious illness and health-related problems during childhood. American children have the highest prevalence of obesity and the Asians have the lowest rate in America (Wang, 2011). Research studies have shown that infants are unlikely to get obese in comparison to the older children. There are disparities in the American population with young people from some states and cities more likely to become obese than others. As the problem of obesity in childhood becomes more common, the health consequences could explain the large increase in the demand for quality health care services (Wang & Lobstein, 2006). This paper will explore the obesity epidemic among American children and young people.
The matters related to childhood obesity should be given high priority since they threaten the health of the young people and their future potential. The children and young people who are obese are at risk for serious health problems. In addition, they may also miss much of their school time, endure psychological stress and grow into obese adults. The childhood obesity is an epidemic that needs to be reversed to protect the young generation as a result the society and government need to invest into preventing childhood obesity.. The childhood obesity is a costly disease that put a tremendous strain on the healthcare system in terms of medical expense costs. The disease is also a threat to the productivity of the country.
The statistics from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that, in the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled among children and tripled among adolescents. Statistics indicate that a number of obese children aged between 611 years increased from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2010. The number of obese adolescents aged 1219 years increased from 5% to 18% over the same period. Obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being of children (National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011).
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There are many causes of obesity among children and young people and the main one is the imbalance of energy input and expenditure. Studies have investigated the role of diet or activity in causing obesity as well as the correlation between the consumption of fast food and obesity among 13-15 year-olds. Physical activities are aimed at promoting physical exercise, and they have little impact on children's body mass indices (BMIs). Children and young people who spend long periods in front of the television risk contracting obesity because of the sedentary lifestyle. The other cause of obesity is sleep deprivation, which r leads to low leptin and high ghrelin levels. This draws to a high level of fats stored in the body leading to obesity. Research studies suggest the possibility of obese children having obese parents. The socioeconomic factors have influence the childs health. The prevalence of childhood obesity is linked to the economic factors and the country's income inequality. However, a study conducted by the Leeds Metropolitan University on a sample population of over 13,000 schoolchildren in Leeds, gave a different view. The results of the study indicated that children from middle income families have a high probability to get obesity.
Statistics indicate that 70% of young people aged between 5-17 years suffered from one of the cardiovascular disease like high level of cholesterol or high blood pressure. The young obese people face a high risk of developing diabetes. Other immediate problems include risk for bone and joint problems, lack of sleep, social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
The long-term health effects include obese adulthood, which causes health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis. Childhood obesity can lead to increased risk for breast, gallbladder, ovary, cervix, and prostate cancer. The obesity can also lead to myeloma and Hodgkins lymphoma.Overweight and obesity create health problems, which have a significant economic impact on health systems and the medical costs. These include the medical costs used for preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity. Other costs are indirect like the premature death and grief caused to parents of the obese young people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes obesity as the excessive or abnormal fat accumulation which presents a risk to health. Obesity is considered to be a major risk factor for such chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. Obesity is the increase in body mass index (BMI) of people. It is a health problem that has taken a major toll in the developed world. It has led to increased health care budgets and caused risk to health of the overweight people. The causes of obesity are multifaceted, and there is no easy way or medical cure. The main cause of obesity is overeating because of the ease on availability of foods variety. Some cultures do not suffer from obesity since the diet is for satisfying hunger and offers little choice of getting pleasure from eating. In such cultures, one can only eat after working to produce the food, which controls overeating or eating on impulse.
The childhood obesity epidemic in America has certain trends and can be addressed using certain parameters. Obesity is a serious public health problem in America and the world. The obesity in childhood has effects on individual adulthood. It is important to support the prevention of childhood obesity (Wang & Lobstein, 2006). Some research studies also indicate that children from the minority groups e.g. African Americans are more likely to remain obese over time due to their lifestyle. Failure to control the obesity epidemic in America can have serious health and financial consequences. This is likely to have a high toll on minority and low-income groups who are hit harder than the other groups. A similar study was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The study revealed that the childhood obesity epidemic affects the African Americans more than any other group of Americans. The study was conducted on a sample population of 44 parent-child dyad. The parent child dyad filed their measurements of weight, height, body fat composition and depression. The parents were also asked to complete a questionnaire and other instruments. The instruments were used to measure parental psychopathology, family functioning, cardiovascular risks and child behavior. The instruments were used to create models to predict parental and childhood body mass index, child behavioral problems and parental depression. The findings of the study revealed that parental depression plays a major role in obesity among children (Davis et al., 2011). These findings concurred with Wang and Lobsteins findings that show the family has a role to play in childhood obesity.
Obesity is an indication of an unhealthy lifestyle, which is characterized by overeating and lack of physical activity. Obesity has widely been researched by many scholars around the globe. The growth in both weight-for-age and weight-for-length metrics, at the infancy causes overweight in young people. The study was conducted by analyzing 422 infants at gestational age. The infants were enrolled in the Fels Longitudinal Study (Odegaard et al., 2013). The infants who had rapid weight-for-age growth were infrequently associated with overweight as they grew. The study showed that the weight-for-length growth from 0 to 24 months, 1 to 6, 9, 12, 18, and 24 months and from 3 to 9, 12, 18, and 24 months was linked to overweight status as young people (Odegaard et al., 2013).
Obesity causes diabetic health complications. This is confirmed by a research conducted in North America that indicated the rise in incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus among young patients. This is attributed to the epidemic of pediatric obesity which caused an increase in type 2 diabetes mellitus (Erhardt& Molnar, 2004). The study indicated that although type 2 diabetes mellitus is rare among young people, the rate is expected to increase with the growing rates of obesity. The study revealed that the children and adolescents face a substantial risk to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus. Among the Hungarian population, the obese adolescent with impaired glucose tolerance was found in 17.3% of cases. The type 2 diabetes mellitus among children was rated at 1.9% of children population. The study indicated that healthcare providers need to screen young people who are at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
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The cost of healthcare has grown tremendously which affects Americans due to the increase in number of hospital admissions from obesity related complications. A study was conducted by the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College funded by the National Institute for Health Research. A team of researchers led by Jones Nielsen embarked onto study of the rising obesity-related hospital admissions among children and young people in England. The objective was to describe the trends in hospital admissions associated with obesity as a primary diagnosis and surgery procedures among children and young people in England (Nielsen et al., 2013). The study was conducted using data from the records of hospital admissions between 2000 and 2009. The participants were children and young people aged 5-19 years and diagnosed with obesity. The results of the study indicated that in 2000-2009 hospital admission rates were four fold. It was noted that the admissions were prevalent among girls than boys: 56.2% to 43.8%. A high number of admission and surgery procedures has risen from 1 per year in 2000 to 31 in 2009, with the majority performed among obese girls (75.6%) aged 1319 years. The study revealed that conditions associated with obesity among children and young people are creating health challenges for healthcare providers in hospitals. The hospitals are mostly dealing with obesity related conditions rather than assessing and managing obesity.
It happens frequently that severely obese children have high rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues at very young ages. They are likely to have high blood pressure, cholesterol and clogging of the arteries. A research study was conducted to examine by gender the differences among overweight adolescents of Mexicans, and other Latin Americans in the United States of America. The study evaluated the correlation between the economic status, health-related behaviors, and family characteristics (Delva et al., 2007). The representative samples of Latino children were sampled from the 8th and 10th grades from 1991 to 2004. The results of the study indicated that a high proportion of Mexican-American girls were overweight. The study revealed that, for both genders, overweight was inversely associated with socioeconomic status. It was evident from the study that time spent exercising, and time spent watching television are the two risk factors that can be varied to reduce overweight. The findings of the study indicate there is a need to find gender and culturally accepted mechanisms to increase physical activity. Researchers have indicated that treating children and young people with severe obesity is highly challenging. However, some treatments are successfully used to reduce overweight and obesity. These include changing the lifestyle, though this may not be effective for those with severe obesity.
A similar study was conducted with the objective of investigating the early determinants of overweight and obesity status for children aged two years. The study involved a sample population of 1098 children. The study revealed children of ages of 2-19 years who are overweight totaling to over 12 million Americans. The study revealed that the African American comprises 20% of this group. The obesity problem is more prevalent in the southern states than in other ones (Fletcher et al., 2009). This concurs with the report of the study conducted by the Trust for America's Health. The report indicated that Mississippi has the highest rates of obesity. Childhood obesity is ranked the 8th nationwide with the young obese people aged 10-17 years. This prompted the Mississippi fraternity to develop a club dubbed The Kids for Healthy Eating and Exercising (KHEE).The purpose of the club project was to sensitize and initiate weight control program, which was designed for the African American children in the North Midtown area. The program devised ways to improve the lifestyle changes of selected obese children who represented the target population. The outcome of the project revealed a major change among the participating young people. There was a notable decrease in the body mass index (BMI), reduced waist girth, and positive behavioral change (Fletcher et al., 2009).
A new study by the American Heart Association found striking evidence that obese children have high cholesterol. This shows warning signs of possible heart disease.The study was conducted on 70 children aged 6 to 19. The study revealed that, the thickness of artery walls of obese children and teenagers indicate high cholesterol. The findings of the study supported other research conducted on childhood obesity and revealed that in the United States, childhood obesity is likely to result in heart disease as the children age (Belluck, 2008).
Studies have indicated probability of parent-child resemblance that lead to childhood obesity. The study compared the body weight status from the nationally representative data for the US. The study involved analyzing the body mass index (BMI), weight on a sample population of 4,846 boys, 4,725 girls, and their parents. The body weights were availed by the US nationally representative data from the 2006 and 2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The data was used to examine parent-child resemblance using the parent and childs BMI measures. The data collected for the sample population was in the ratios of 0.15 for father-son pairs, 0.17 for father-daughter pairs, 0.20 for mother-son pairs, and 0.23 for mother-daughter pairs. The analysis from the study revealed that 2.1% of children are likely to be obese if only their father was obese. Another 1.9 % of children population was likely to be obese if only their mother was obese. Additionally, 3.2 % of children were likely to be obese if both parents were obese. The findings of the study revealed that the parent-child resemblance in BMI was weak and could vary across parent-child dyad types in the US population. However, it was found out that parental obesity status is linked to childrens obesity status. The parameters used in such a study of parent-child resemblance in body weight status can lead to different conclusions (Liu, 2013).
The Way to Control and Prevent Childhood Obesity in America
A lot of researches have been conducted to identify the causes of childhood obesity in America while others were conducted to help in controlling and preventing childhood obesity. A conference of experts was convened to discuss ways to prevent childhood obesity in the US. The objective was to identify what is known about the causes of obesity and what could be done to prevent additional increases. The conference convened experts from different areas that bear on prevention of obesity before birth, at infancy, and very early childhood. They presented different interpretations of the stage to add to the current knowledge of obesity. The results of the conference indicated that breastfeeding is protective against obesity and should be encouraged. Breastfeeding infants for the first year of life reduce chances of contracting obesity. Secondly, infant feeding processes are crucial in preventing childhood obesity. Altering the taste preferences for foods and beverages that are energy dense and nutrient poor could help lower the obesity rates among young people. The experts also indicated the parenting styles to be fruitful in controlling childhood obesity. It was evident that if the parents have control of the first years of life and regulate the pattern of weight changes may contribute to changes preventing the risk of obesity. The conference gave an insight into childhood obesity that will continue to be a growing problem unless people improve understanding of the key factors. The American population needs to be educated on preventing obesity before birth, at infancy and in early childhood. The knowledge would help to identify the best intervention to control childhood obesity. This would have an effect by evaluating the successful preventive interventions (Lederman et al., 2004).
The Childhood obesity is an epidemic and calls for prevention and treatment programs to reverse the trend. However, childhood obesity prevention programs lack the evidence base that is needed for an effective action. The primary prevention of childhood obesity should describe the current primary prevention approaches for childhood obesity and the evidence for their impact. Moreover, prevention strategies should involve ecological framework and evidence from experiment that research the factors influencing children's eating habits and weight status. The prevention strategy should be a multiphase strategy that evaluates effective interventions for childhood obesity. Childhood obesity prevention programs and prevention efforts should be expanded to explore other for intervention efforts, which include family and childcare settings. Research studies indicate that 25% of preschool children are overweight. Therefore, programs that intervene with the children before joining school should be given a high priority and should involve experimental research to develop control of food intake in infancy and childhood. These are possible intervention strategies that focus on parentage and the feeding environment (Birch & Ventura, 2009).
In conclusion, the potential impact of lowering the risk factors remains to be evaluated. In response to the problem of childhood obesity, a multiphase method for controlling and preventing obesity would be appropriate. The multiphase approach would supplement the current programs to prevent obesity. These would help to develop optimized interventions that would help to prevent the childhood obesity epidemic.