Combating Childhood Obesity

Sydney Anthony
5 min readApr 23, 2020

With everything going on in our current times with COVID19, what have you been observing where you live? Likely you have seen families playing together outside. The real question is, did you see that before this pandemic?

Photo by: Elliot Nathan on Suricate Games

Childhood obesity is becoming a growing epidemic worldwide. It is not just a problem here in the United States. The question is why could this be? Are children not being as active anymore? Is health, nutrition, and physical activity still being taught in schools? Are parents being involved in their children lives? There is a long list of questions that can be asked regarding this topic. However, the only question that needs to be asked is how we can change this and make a difference. When talking about childhood obesity, parents need to be aware of the startling statistics, risk factors, causes, and also consequences that it could have on the children later in life. We also need to promote that education, awareness, and parental involvement are all large components that can help with this situation.

Startling Statistics

  • In 2010, there were approximately 43 million preschool children who were obese.³
  • It was noted that by 2020, there will be nearly 60 million preschoolers that will be obese.³
  • We are seeing obesity rates higher in more developed countries like the United States and China.³
  • In the U.S., obesity rates have now tripled and may be one of the highest so far.³
  • It is more common in our boy population than our girl population.³

“Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The problem is global and is steadily affecting many low and middle income countries, particularly in urban settings” (Sahoo, 2015).⁷

Now and Later Health Risks

  • Diabetes⁶
  • Hypertension⁶
  • High cholesterol⁶
  • Fatty liver disease⁶
  • Asthma⁶
  • Sleep apnea⁶
  • Joint paint⁶
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Measuring Obesity

We can measure obesity by determining an individuals body mass index (BMI). This is calculated by using a person’s height and weight. This will vary per gender and age. There are several factors that can also impact obesity and inactivity, including: technology, society, and finances.¹

Society plays a large role in families lives these days by trying to give you images on how you should be a parent to your child. Does this work for every family? No, and that is okay! Will your children be influenced by what they will see on television? Yes. Must you have a large chunk of money to be able to put your child into every possible activity to keep them active? No, you don’t! The best part of being a parent is being able to be a role model for your child and demonstrate for them what they can do to remain healthy. While you can teach your children how to stay active and give them nourishing foods, you are unable to protect them from genetics. You can provide them with a proper diet, activities that keep them active, positive role models, and a safe environment.

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Exercise

What does exercise look like these days? For adults, it can include lifting weights, running, or taking a group class at a local gym. For children, it means going to sports practices, playing with friends outside, going to PE class at school, riding a bike, or swimming during the summer. It is essential for them to get about 60 minutes or more of moderate physical activity each day.⁸ Parents, you can easily promote physical activity with your children by having them play outside, putting them in a sport or activity, or simply taking a family walk after dinner. There are many benefits to an individual exercising: less chance of obesity, better blood pressure and cholesterol level, fit body, and stronger muscles and bones.⁵ It will overall help an individual feel healthier. Three important elements of fitness with children is endurance, strength, and flexibility.⁵

"Education is key in prevention of childhood obesity” (Ehrenfeld, 2018.)⁴

The final question here is, how can we combat childhood obesity? It starts with you, the parents! Your children will likely follow in your footsteps and mimic what you do. How can you be a positive role model for them? You can prepare healthy dinners and enjoy the meal together as a family. Use portion control with meals and provide them with healthy snacks throughout the day. Don’t put televisions in the children’s room so they don’t spend time cooped up and instead, they play. Implement bedtime routines because sleep is a big aspect in their overall quality of life. Be supportive to your children because new changes can be a huge learning curve. This will not get better or change over night. So please be prepared for trial and error and lots of learning along the way.

“Parents are demonstrating healthy eating habits to their children because children will learn better when they see their parents doing it firsthand” (Bhamani, 2013).²

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What can parents take away from this information? The solution to making a change and combating childhood obesity begins with you, the parents! Times are tough. It can be difficult to juggling working, getting multiple children to different schools or activities, cooking dinner, supervising outside play time, getting the kids into baths before bed, and finally tucking everyone in. Get involved with your children by making small changes. You can include your children in picking out and making nutritious meals, followed by a family game of tag or soccer outside after. On the weekends, take a bike ride or visit the local farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables. In conclusion, educate your children and be involved with teaching them.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Active Healthy Living: Prevention of Childhood Obesity Through Increased Physical Activity.” Pediatrics. (2006). https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/5/1834
  2. Bhamani, Shireen. “Parents’ Role in Prevention of Childhood Obesity”. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, 63(7). (July 31, 2013). https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.fhsu.edu/apps/doc/A337769077/HWRC?u=klnb_fhsuniv&sid=HWRC&xid=dfee6c30
  3. “Child Obesity”. Harvard. (April 8, 2016). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-trends/global-obesity-trends-in-children/
  4. Ehrenfeld, Temma. “Overcoming Childhood Obesity: How Parents Can Help… or Hurt”. Healthline. (June 13, 2018).https://www.healthline.com/health-news/overcoming-childhood-obesity-how-parents-can-help-or-hurt#The-risk-to-your-childs-health
  5. Gavin, Mary. “Kids Health”. KidsHealth. (June, 2018). https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html
  6. Prevention, C. f. (2018). “Childhood Obesity Causes & Consequences”. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. (2018). https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/
  7. Sahoo, K., Sahoo, B., Choudhury, A. K., Sofi, N. Y., Kumar, R., & Bhadoria, A. S. “Childhood Obesity: Causes and Consequences. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 4(2), (2015). 187–192. doi:10.4103/2249–4863.154628
  8. Wieting, J. Michael. “Cause and Effect in Childhood Obesity: Solutions for a National Epidemic”. The Journal of American Osteopathic Association, 108(10). (2008). https://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2093529

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