Nowadays, the number of obese children is steadily rising in the United States (Ogden et al., 2006). Childhood obesity can be caused by a multitude of reasons. These reasons can be inherent, or may occur in combination with other factors that can cause obesity. Children may be genetically predisposed to obesity as this can run in families. In addition, the rising culture of on-the-go food from takeaways and convenience stores has altered good eating habits of both children and adults alike. Parents benefit from the convenience and time it affords them, particularly for families with two busy, working parents. On top of bad eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle has been promoted with the advent of modern technology such gaming consoles and computer games. The media has also played a role through blatant advertising campaigns of fast-food chains, focusing primarily on the younger market. Children are missing out on natural physical exercises as they become preoccupied with the latest gadgets instead of playing outdoors.
Children who are overweight and obese have a higher risk of acquiring health problems (Daniels et al., 2005). Diabetes, cancer, bone problems and joint problems are only some of the health consequences of obesity that may not manifest during the childhood years but may start appearing during adulthood. Aside from health disturbances, overweight children may also be affected psychologically due to the low self esteem and at times, discrimination that they may experience from their peers. These diseases and complications, however, can be prevented through the observance of a routine physical activity and a balanced diet
Parents must take personal responsibility, understand and accept their role in fighting the alarming increase in obesity problems in children. Parents, being a primary contributing factor to children’s unhealthy eating habits essentially hold the key to resolving the obesity problem. It is important, therefore, that good physical and nutritional habits be formed in an early age. Since the decade of the 1980’s, several studies and researches have proven that children who are not physically fit, will later suffer from an illness or disease as well as disorders that are psychological in nature. Research has proven that health problems may be avoided if children start to maintain a physical fitness routine and adhere to a healthy and balanced diet.
At this stage, the roles of schools, state governments and consumers in general become highly crucial. Schools and the state would be most helpful in initiating and implementing information programs that would educate children and parents alike of the value of proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle. They can also exercise their inherent regulatory functions to promote healthy eating habits. For instance, schools can start a ban on the sale of junk foods in their campuses or provide nutritional meals instead of the usual fast food fare of burgers and French fries. Consumers can stop supporting unhealthy fast food chains and start patronizing those that provide healthy alternatives.
Today, there is much hope with the problem increasingly getting into the consciousness of more people. Radical changes, starting from the home, the schools, and the state need to be undertaken to reshape the minds of children and to reorient them to nutritional eating habits and healthy lifestyle. While we do not expect changes to occur overnight, there is no doubt that every little step we shall take now is one step towards a healthier society.
Daniels S.R. et al. Overweight in children and adolescents: pathophysiology, consequences, prevention, and treatment. Circulation 2005; 111;1999–2002.
Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
Ogden C.L et al. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States, 1999–2004. JAMA. 2006; 295(13):1549–1555.