Over the past three decades, childhood obesity has developed into an epidemic and is considered as one of the major health issues in the world. While it is important to understand the causes of childhood obesity, arguments about who is to be held responsible divert attention from the most important issue, that of mitigating the disorder. Societies should stop placing blame and instead educate all the people who are at risk or are affected by childhood obesity.
According to WHO, the global number of children under the age of 18 estimated to be overweight is estimated over 170 million (World Health Organization, 2012). Childhood obesity is a condition in which the Body Mass Index (BMI) of a child is greater than the 95th percentile. High BMI predisposes children to a variety of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer. Obesity in children also leads to psychological issues that arise due to bullying and teasing that these children are likely to undergo (Lobstein, Baur, & Uauy, 2004).
Childhood obesity is a condition that arises due to the obesogenic environment. This means that the condition arises because of a combination of elements that includes genetics, family’s environment, socioeconomic factors and advertising. Certain genes within the body predispose children to the condition in the presence of sufficient calories. According to Kopelman, Caterson, and Dietz (2005), about 80% of children of parents suffering from obesity are obese themselves compared to 10% of obese children that are given birth to by non-obese parents.
Family environment is also a major cause of obesity. As a result of increasing workplace pressures, many women do not breastfeed but turn to processed infant formula. These children are likely to develop weight issues due to uncontrolled calories intake. Modern children also fail to engage in physically taxing activities thus are susceptible to weight issues.
The prevention and mitigation of childhood obesity needs to be a collaborative approach that should involve parents, entire communities, international organizations, the private sector and the government (Ebbeling, Pawlak, & Ludwig, 2002). The actions of parents have a great impact on children. It is therefore imperative that parents be proper models for healthy eating. Parents should also encourage their children to engage in physical activities. This should include tighter rules regarding pocket money and consumption of fast foods as well as rules regarding playing electronic games and watching television.
Communities also have a very big role in preventing obesity in both children and adults. As children spend most of their daytime hours in schools, the community should support healthy eating in schools. There should be better indoor and outdoor facilities in both schools and the neighborhood. Schools should also ensure that children are exposed to various physically challenging games. Schools also need to have ample Physical Education equipment as well as a variety of sports and non-sports (e.g. Karate) activity options (Kopelman et al., 2005). Schools have a duty to also institute lunchbox guidelines to parents.
The private sector has a duty of instituting health promoting actions in their daily activities. Those companies in the food industry should engage in research to develop healthier food products. These companies should also be held accountable on their marketing strategies as well as the provision of accurate nutrition information (WHO, 2012). The media must engage in accurate reporting of obesity and the impacts that various foods have toward the health of children.
International organizations need to promote strategies that have a positive impact on the public health of the society. They should ensure that trade agreements take into account the protection of public health and do not hinder any efforts that improve the lives of individuals (Ebbeling et al., 2002). These organizations also have a duty to promote health, fight for the alleviation of poverty and the improvement of living standards, as well as collaborate in information sharing with countries in issues regarding public health.
The government is important in realizing a comprehensive approach to the prevention of childhood obesity. The government has the ability to take action in the form of regulatory policies, leadership, advocacy and funding (WHO, 2012).
The government can implement hard policy approach to curb the consumption of unhealthy foodstuffs through subsidies and taxes. The government can also reach agreements with food manufacturers on which laws to impose and which to relax if industries agree to change their policies in order to promote public health (WHO, 2012). The government also needs to fund activities such as research, health monitoring programs, training and evaluation of research strategies. The government also has a duty to lead in advocacy by ensuring that platforms for information sharing exist.
The prevention of childhood obesity has become a vital aspect of public health in societies all over the world. Several described policy interventions exist and all need the collaboration of the various stakeholders involved. Each stakeholder needs to understand the causes of childhood obesity and seek information on what they can contribute to mitigate this condition. Politicians and community leaders who make decisions regarding public health need to accept recommendations and disseminate information and any other help needed to implement prevention and mitigation activities.
Ebbeling, C., Pawlak, D., & Ludwig, D. (2002). Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. Lancet, 360 (9331), 473-482.
Kopelman, P., Caterson, I., & Dietz, W. (2005). Clinical obesity in adults and children. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell
Lobstein, T., Baur, L., & Uauy, R. (2004). Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health. Obesity Reviews, 5(1), 4-104.
World Health Organization (2012). Childhood Obesity: A Set of Tools for Member States. Web.