The social ideology of consumerism along with other aspects of progress brought new issues to society. One of them is obesity, a problem that is continuously becoming more severe in many countries. The rates of obesity in all age groups are steadily increasing every year. However, the issue of childhood obesity is especially severe, as it affects not only children’s present but also their future health and lifestyle. According to Ogden et al. (2014), the prevalence of childhood obesity did not decrease over time. The authors state that approximately seventeen percent of children are diagnosed with obesity (Ogden et al., 2014). Moreover, the problem of obesity in children only continues to grow.
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The problem of childhood obesity is not new. For example, Cunningham, Kramer, and Narayan (2014) state that the prevalence of obesity in children increased by more than ten percent in forty years. While these numbers may not sound significant to some scholars, it is important to point out that the current rates are growing even faster. The increase in these figures shows that the problem of childhood obesity is only becoming more severe every year.
The scientific community conducts many studies that explore childhood obesity, including its rates, causes, and ways of prevention. Some studies look into the prevalence of childhood obesity in order to establish the speed, at which this issue is spreading. The articles mentioned before investigating this topic. Other studies explore the possible causes of childhood obesity. For example, Sahoo et al. (2015) state that there are many factors that can cause obesity in children. Moreover, other studies suggest possible approaches to solving the issue of obesity or mitigating its severity. However, the existing research does not present enough information to find all causes of obesity in children. While some approaches to this issue have been discovered, the rates of childhood obesity continue to increase. The problem of childhood obesity requires scholars to perform new research and find more information on various aspects of obesity as well as additional ways of prevention and mitigation for this issue.
The Problem of Childhood Obesity
It is necessary to define obesity and explore the information that is already included in existing research to assess the problem of childhood obesity. Various definitions show that obesity is a complex concept. Thus, studies may interpret obtained data differently according to their methods of measuring. However, the problem of people being overweight does not lose its significance because of this aspect. According to Sahoo et al. (2015), obesity can be described as an “excess of body fat” (p. 190). This characterization implies that the information obtained with the help of the body mass index is not always representative of one’s risk for obesity. Sahoo et al. (2015) write that obesity in children is hard to establish because their body constantly changes as they grow. Therefore, the problem of diagnosing obesity needs to be researched further.
Researchers outline a number of causes that may lead to obesity. The main reason is usually described as a difference between calorie intake and energy expenditure. However, there are many other factors that can influence one’s risk of obesity. First of all, many researchers focus on genetic background and its possible influence on one’s predisposition to being overweight. Moreover, these factors can include one’s lifestyle, which is also closely connected to the aspect of parenting. Children often repeat the information and behavioral patterns that they obtain from their parents and guardians. Thus, childhood obesity may be connected to the parents having health issues as well. Lifestyle problems also include lack of physical activity, and sedentary behavior (Xu & Xue, 2015). Finally, the diet of a child influences his or her health as well. Poor dieting habits may increase one’s risk of being obese. There are many types of food and beverages that affect one’s health.
There are other factors of childhood obesity that are not as studied as the ones mentioned above. For instance, socio-economic, psychological, and geographical factors present more information about one’s possibility of becoming obese. One’s food intake may be connected to cultural differences, societal norms, or mental causes.
The Major Causes and Risks of Childhood Obesity
The most common causes of childhood obesity are sedentary lifestyle, health-related issues, and genetic predisposition. However, these are the most apparent reasons while the disease is so dangerous that it may be provoked by other factors about which parents may not know. One of the most dangerous conditions that may lead to the development of childhood obesity is pregnancy-associated diabetes (Barton, 2012). Scientists remark that this factor, along with the refusal to breastfeed, may lead to an increased risk of obesity in children. Another factor contributing to childhood obesity is concerned with dietary peculiarities (Barton, 2012). It is noted that children eating Asian diets have a much lower disposition to obesity than those whose diet contains much high-calorie food. This factor may be responsible for the rapid increase in childhood obesity in China where people started adopting Western patterns of diet in recent decades (Barton, 2012).
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Recently, alarming data associated with childhood obesity appeared. It reports susceptibility to disease due to ethnic peculiarities of low socioeconomic positions that lead to insufficient health care and low concern (Barton, 2012). The connection between socioeconomic status and predisposition to obesity has been noted by the World Health Organization (Wang & Lim, 2012). Not only children from families whose socioeconomic status is low become susceptible to obesity but also those who live in developed countries. The latter have better access to food but frequently pay insufficient attention to its quality, which leads to obesity (Wang & Lim, 2012).
While childhood obesity is a rather serious disease, it may lead to even more dramatic complications. Major problems may occur in the cardiovascular system, metabolic processes, and psychological state (Wang & Lim, 2012). Childhood obesity may act as a trigger for such diseases as hypertension, myocardial infarction, endothelial injury, heart failure, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, and cardiomyopathy (Wang & Lim, 2012). On the part of the metabolic system, childhood obesity may lead to such conditions as fatty liver, diabetes, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance. Psychological disorders caused by obesity are stigmatization, depression, cognitive dysfunction, and social regression. There are other risks of childhood obesity that cannot be classified into one specific group: cancer, sympathetic activation, immobility, low-grade inflammation, and infertility (Wang & Lim, 2012). Finally, childhood obesity greatly increases the possibility of developing adult obesity.
The Ways of Preventing Childhood Obesity
While the extent of the disease progresses at high speed, new methods of preventing it also develop quickly. Borys et al. (2012) describe a systematic approach to childhood obesity prevention suggested by EPODE (Ensemble Prévenons l’Obésité Des Enfants, translated as Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity). At the highest level of this system, there is a coordination team that trains local managers. The latter receive the tools for mobilizing local participants via networks. What is particularly significant is that this system enables the mobilization of people at all levels of private and public community sectors. The crucial elements of such a system are support services, scientific support, sustainable resources, and political commitment (Borys et al., 2012). EPODE is a valuable method of childhood obesity prevention due to its community-based nature.
Gupta, Goel, Shah, and Misra (2012) remark that since socioeconomic status has become one of the determinants of the disease’s spread, it is necessary to initiate preventive measures that might increase people’s awareness of the problem and encourage changes. The authors suggest that regular physical exercises and changes in therapeutic lifestyle are the core approaches to preventing childhood obesity (Gupta et al., 2012). The suggested measures should be controlled by parents and physicians. As for developing countries, educational campaigns and high-risk screening are recommended. A rather interesting approach to childhood obesity prevention is mentioned in the study by Lu, Kharrazi, Gharghabi, and Thompson (2013). The authors discuss the positive impact of health video games on children’s physical condition. Lu et al. (2013) remark that engagement in health video game-playing decreases obesity and promotes children’s healthy lifestyle.
There is a variety of interventions for childhood obesity prevention. Wang et al. (2015) divide such methods into school-based and non-school-based. School-based interventions may incorporate such components as home, community, home and community, consumer health informatics, and home and consumer health informatics. Non-school-based interventions are divided into the following types:
- home-only based;
- home-based with the community and school elements;
- home-based with consumer health informatics and primary care components;
- primary care-only based;
- primary-care based including a home component;
- childcare center-only based;
- community-based or environmental;
- consumer health informatics (Wang et al., 2015).
The Healthcare community should pay more attention to the problem of childhood obesity since the number of obese children is constantly growing. Both developed and developing countries have high rates of childhood obesity, which means that various approaches are needed to deal with this health issue. Much research has been done on the topic, but further investigation of the core causes of childhood obesity is needed for scientists to be able to reduce the instances of the disease.
Barton, M. (2012). Childhood obesity: A life-long health risk. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 33(2), 189-193.
Borys, J.-M., Le Bodo, Y., Jebb, S. A., Seidell, J. C., Summerbel, C., Richard, D., … the EEN Study Group. (2012). EPODE approach for childhood obesity prevention: Methods, progress and international development. Obesity Reviews, 13(4), 299-315.
Cunningham, S. A., Kramer, M. R., & Narayan, V. (2014). Incidence of childhood obesity in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(1), 403-411.
Gupta, N., Goel, K., Shah, P., & Misra, A. (2012). Childhood obesity in developing countries: Epidemiology, determinants, and prevention. Endocrine Reviews, 33(1), 48-70.
Lu, A. S., Kharrazi, H., Gharghabi, F., & Thompson, D. (2013). A systematic review of health videogames on childhood obesity prevention and intervention. Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications, 2(3), 131-141.
Ogden, C. L., Carrol, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(8), 806-814.
Sahoo, K., Sahoo, B., Choudhury, A. K., Sofi, N. Y., Kumar, R., & Bhadoria, A. S. (2015). Childhood obesity: Causes and consequences. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(2), 187-192.
Wang, Y., & Lim, H. (2012). The global childhood obesity epidemic and the association between socio-economic status and childhood obesity. International Review of Psychiatry, 24(3), 176-188.
Wang, Y., Cai, L., Wu, Y., Wilson, R. F., Weston, C., Fawole, O.,… Segal, J. (2015). What childhood obesity prevention programmes work? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 16(7), 547-565.
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Xu, S., & Xue, Y. (2015). Pediatric obesity: Causes, symptoms, prevention and treatment (review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 11(1), 15-20.