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The Current State of Obesity in Children Issue

Abstract

This paper aims to review the recent literature on obesity in children to report the key issues. Beginning with the global prevalence of this disease, the report continues with its main health impacts. It is stated that diabetes, psychological problems, and stigma are the key effects. More to the point, children with obesity are more likely to face discrimination from their peers, which impacts their communication skills and experience. The protection measures can include an integrative work of parents, teachers, and care providers to create an environment that would promote healthy lifestyles. The contribution of policymakers is also necessary to adjust marketing activities and improve the access to physical activity and high-quality foods for all families.

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Introduction

Obesity in children is a worldwide health issue that was widely researched to increase the awareness of health care providers, parents, educators, policymakers, and other involved stakeholders. Within the last three decades, the number of obese children grew exponentially, which leads to such diseases as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, bullying in schools from their peers, and so on (7). To better understand the current state of this problem, it is important to pay attention to its prevalence, reasons, health effects, and ways to prevent further deterioration.

Prevalence and Reasons

The rise in the number of obese children worldwide, especially in developed countries, can be called another non-infectious epidemic. As reported by Lobstein et al., an average weight of an American child increased by five kg within the last 30 years (10) (Figure 1). In their study, Ogden et al. found that the number of obese children is likely to double every three decades, while 17 percent of children and adolescents in the US have excessive weight (12). However, the situation in developing countries seems to be critical as well despite significant undernutrition. According to Chung and his colleagues, there is an increasing prevalence of obesity in children from low-income families, which is caused by their inability to ensure high-quality food, sleep, and proper living conditions (6). Among other reasons for the identified problem, there are the consumption of high-calorie and processed food and beverages, a lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyles, and stress (5). Family and socioeconomic factors, as well as marketing efforts of companies that want to sell their products, also serve as the provoking issues

Prevalence trends for child obesity worldwide
Figure 1. Prevalence trends for child obesity worldwide (Lobstein et al.).

Effects and Consequences

There is extensive evidence that shows the impacts of child obesity on various health dimensions. First, it leads to metabolic syndromes that cause various co-morbidities, including diabetes, coronary artery disease, asthma, a higher risk of disability, osteoarthritis, and so on (7). Second, mental health effects are obesity discrimination and stigma, low self-esteem and mood disorders, as well as communication problems. Third, from the social perspective, child obesity is related to discrimination at schools, health care institutions, increased attention to one’s appearance, and so on (9, 10). Children with excessive weight are more likely to feel socially isolated and have behavior problems. If the problem is not resolved, these children are at a higher risk of having similar challenges in adulthood. On a larger scale, obesity in children is an additional burden for the health care system and related costs.

Protection

The topic of protecting children from obesity and preventing these public health issues in healthy children is given much attention. Lobstein et al. suggest that new nutrition policies are needed to promote healthy nutrition lifestyles (10). Namely, the consumption of breastmilk substitutes should be clearly explained to mothers, who should understand potential risks for their children. Accordingly, older children should be recommended to take nutrient-rich products of high quality, while spending much energy. It can be achieved through the policies that promote physical activity and encourage children to limit sedentary times for playing computer games or watching TV. The problem is that low-income parents offer snacks that they can afford, but high-quality food is more expensive (1) (Figure 2).

Parents, educators, and care providers are the key persons who directly interact with children. In this connection, motivational interviewing is noted by Borrelli et al. as an evidence-based intervention to reduce children’s body mass index through communication (2). The identified method implies that parents or care providers ask questions to understand the stage of a child and his or her specific needs. After that, relevant intervention is to be applied in practice. The studies also point to the role of teachers in encouraging physical activity during lessons and outside schools (8). For example, brief exercises can be offered to students, or discussions regarding nutrition can be initiated.

Reasons for low-income parents to offer children snacks
Figure 2. Reasons for low-income parents to offer children snacks (Blaine et al.).
BMI trajectories according to the maternal level of education of obese children
Figure 3. BMI trajectories according to the maternal level of education of obese children (Broccoli et al.).

Discussion

Based on the above literature, it becomes evident that the problem of childhood obesity is critical, and there is a need for immediate action. Since the tendency towards problem escalation is present, policies to regulate marketing, nutrition, school performance, and family relationships should be accepted. For example, it is critical to reconsider pricing strategies and give more opportunities for parents to choose the best products and beverages (11). The food supply and food markets should be governed in a way to enhance commercial activities to support child obesity reduction. It is also important to adopt a comprehensive approach to addressing child obesity to prevent physical and mental health consequences.

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The role of the integrated diet-physical activity interventions is stressed by Wang et al., who found that it is better to deliver obesity prevention programs at home and school settings (14). When parents clearly understand the challenges that are faced by their children, they have more opportunities to help them. In this case, the assistance of counselors can also be used to establish open and trustful relationships (13). In other words, weight management should be treated as a set of interventions that are relevant to a particular child in his or her context. Stress and sleep management is another issue that should be taken into account by parents since they play a critical role in the functioning of children’s nervous system and emotional well-being.

Conclusion

To conclude, this report provides the key points regarding children obesity to clarify the current state of this public health issue. It is found that scholarly articles offer extensive data on the prevalence, effects, and reasons for this disease. Since childhood obesity is associated with multiple co-morbidities and health care system burden, it is important to protect children by applying evidence-based interventions, such as motivational interviewing, nutrition and physical activity programs, work with parents, and so on.

References

Blaine, R. E., Fisher, J. O., Taveras, E. M., Geller, A. C., Rimm, E. B., Land, T., & Davison, K. K. (2015). Reasons low-income parents offer snacks to children: How feeding rationale influences snack frequency and adherence to dietary recommendations. Nutrients, 7(7), 5982-5999.

Borrelli, B., Tooley, E. M., & Scott-Sheldon, L. A. (2015). Motivational interviewing for parent-child health interventions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatric Dentistry, 37(3), 254-265.

Broccoli, S., Davoli, A. M., Bonvicini, L., Fabbri, A., Ferrari, E., Montagna, G., & Candela, S. (2016). Motivational interviewing to treat overweight children: 24-month follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1-12.

Brown, C. L., Halvorson, E. E., Cohen, G. M., Lazorick, S., & Skelton, J. A. (2015). Addressing childhood obesity: Opportunities for prevention. Pediatric Clinics, 62(5), 1241-1261.

Chaput, J. P., & Dutil, C. (2016). Lack of sleep as a contributor to obesity in adolescents: Impacts on eating and activity behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13(1), 103-112.

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Chung, A., Backholer, K., Wong, E., Palermo, C., Keating, C., & Peeters, A. (2016). Trends in child and adolescent obesity prevalence in economically advanced countries according to socioeconomic position: A systematic review. Obesity reviews, 17(3), 276-295.

Djalalinia, S., Qorbani, M., Peykari, N., & Kelishadi, R. (2015). Health impacts of obesity. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 31(1), 239-242.

Hung, L. S., Tidwell, D. K., Hall, M. E., Lee, M. L., Briley, C. A., & Hunt, B. P. (2015). A meta-analysis of school-based obesity prevention programs demonstrates limited efficacy of decreasing childhood obesity. Nutrition Research, 35(3), 229-240.

Kranjac, A. W., & Wagmiller, R. L. (2019). Decomposing trends in child obesity. Population Research and Policy Review, 1-14.

Lobstein, T., Jackson-Leach, R., Moodie, M. L., Hall, K. D., Gortmaker, S. L., Swinburn, B. A., & McPherson, K. (2015). Child and adolescent obesity: Part of a bigger picture. The Lancet, 385(9986), 2510-2520.

Mallonee, L. F., Boyd, L. D., & Stegeman, C. (2017). A scoping review of skills and tools oral health professionals need to engage children and parents in dietary changes to prevent childhood obesity and consumption of sugar‐sweetened beverages. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 77, 128-135.

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Lawman, H. G., Fryar, C. D., Kruszon-Moran, D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2016). Trends in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States, 1988-1994 through 2013-2014. JAMA, 315(21), 2292-2299.

Seburg, E. M., Olson-Bullis, B. A., Bredeson, D. M., Hayes, M. G., & Sherwood, N. E. (2015). A review of primary care-based childhood obesity prevention and treatment interventions. Current Obesity Reports, 4(2), 157-173.

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Wang, Y., Cai, L., Wu, Y., Wilson, R. F., Weston, C., Fawole, O., & Chiu, D. T. (2015). What childhood obesity prevention programmes work? A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 16(7), 547-565.

Footnotes

  1. Blaine, R. E., Fisher, J. O., Taveras, E. M., Geller, A. C., Rimm, E. B., Land, T., & Davison, K. K. (2015). Reasons low-income parents offer snacks to children: How feeding rationale influences snack frequency and adherence to dietary recommendations. Nutrients, 7(7), 5982-5999.
  2. Borrelli, B., Tooley, E. M., & Scott-Sheldon, L. A. (2015). Motivational interviewing for parent-child health interventions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatric Dentistry, 37(3), 254-265.
  3. Broccoli, S., Davoli, A. M., Bonvicini, L., Fabbri, A., Ferrari, E., Montagna, G., & Candela, S. (2016). Motivational interviewing to treat overweight children: 24-month follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 137(1), 1-12.
  4. Brown, C. L., Halvorson, E. E., Cohen, G. M., Lazorick, S., & Skelton, J. A. (2015). Addressing childhood obesity: Opportunities for prevention. Pediatric Clinics, 62(5), 1241-1261.
  5. Chaput, J. P., & Dutil, C. (2016). Lack of sleep as a contributor to obesity in adolescents: Impacts on eating and activity behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13(1), 103-112.
  6. Chung, A., Backholer, K., Wong, E., Palermo, C., Keating, C., & Peeters, A. (2016). Trends in child and adolescent obesity prevalence in economically advanced countries according to socioeconomic position: A systematic review. Obesity reviews, 17(3), 276-295.
  7. Djalalinia, S., Qorbani, M., Peykari, N., & Kelishadi, R. (2015). Health impacts of obesity. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 31(1), 239-242.
  8. Hung, L. S., Tidwell, D. K., Hall, M. E., Lee, M. L., Briley, C. A., & Hunt, B. P. (2015). A meta-analysis of school-based obesity prevention programs demonstrates limited efficacy of decreasing childhood obesity. Nutrition Research, 35(3), 229-240.
  9. Kranjac, A. W., & Wagmiller, R. L. (2019). Decomposing trends in child obesity. Population Research and Policy Review, 1-14.
  10. Lobstein, T., Jackson-Leach, R., Moodie, M. L., Hall, K. D., Gortmaker, S. L., Swinburn, B. A., & McPherson, K. (2015). Child and adolescent obesity: Part of a bigger picture. The Lancet, 385(9986), 2510-2520.
  11. Mallonee, L. F., Boyd, L. D., & Stegeman, C. (2017). A scoping review of skills and tools oral health professionals need to engage children and parents in dietary changes to prevent childhood obesity and consumption of sugar‐sweetened beverages. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 77, 128-135.
  12. Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Lawman, H. G., Fryar, C. D., Kruszon-Moran, D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2016). Trends in obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States, 1988-1994 through 2013-2014. JAMA, 315(21), 2292-2299.
  13. Seburg, E. M., Olson-Bullis, B. A., Bredeson, D. M., Hayes, M. G., & Sherwood, N. E. (2015). A review of primary care-based childhood obesity prevention and treatment interventions. Current Obesity Reports, 4(2), 157-173.
  14. Wang, Y., Cai, L., Wu, Y., Wilson, R. F., Weston, C., Fawole, O., & Chiu, D. T. (2015). What childhood obesity prevention programmes work? A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews, 16(7), 547-565.

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