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The Issues with Obesity of Children and Adolescents

One of the primary concerns of medical specialists in the United States is the increasing rates of childhood obesity. It is linked to numerous health issues that occur at the highest percentage among people with early obesity (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2017). According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2017), these morbidities include “mental health and psychological issues, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, orthopedic problems, and adverse cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes” (p. 2418). In the United States, over 11% of children in kindergartens are obese, while approximately one third is overweight (Muth et al., 2019). This essay discusses the policies that aim to reduce the occurrence of obesity in childhood and includes recommendations for governmental organizations that can alleviate the situation.

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The major part of current policies regarding obesity issues consists of strict school food regulations and the promotion of physical exercises. Olstad et al. (2017) state that “the largest quantity of high-quality evidence of effectiveness was for comprehensive interventions that included school policies” (p. 791). However, it is not sufficient to regulate diet at school. Von Hippel and Workman (2016) state that “the major risk factors for childhood obesity lie outside of schools” (p. 2300). Due to this fact, The U.S. government and non-profit organizations continue to search for new ways to affect this problem through additional programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children have the highest impact and aim to provide finances on healthy food products for disadvantaged families (Olstad et al., 2017). It is crucial to support a healthy lifestyle outside of school through policies, yet there are not enough of them at the moment.

While the programs for proper nutrition are already in place, there is a definitive need for their improvement, expansion, and better engagement of children. Before making any suggestions, it is vital to understand the most efficient way to introduce them and what factors must be looked at in the first place. Research by Von Hippel and Workman (2016) shows that “although mean BMI grows in every period, it grows faster during the summers than during the school years” (p. 2297). Despite the fact that it is harder to control children’s behavior outside school, it is possible to create an engaging atmosphere with numerous opportunities for exciting physical activities.

In order to do so efficiently, policies must involve parents in the process. As parental obesity and physical activity levels are directly linked to similar behavior and health issues that stem from it in children, policies must not ignore the potential from interactions with parents (Olstad et al., 2017). Therefore, one of my main recommendations for the local government representative is to increase the awareness of the effects of physical exercises. It can be achieved through educational pamphlets, new playgrounds, which include activities that can be shared between parents and their children, and the expansion of summer camps. It is necessary to finance these activities and create public social announcements to advertise them.

The second suggestion is related to the financial part of the issue with obesity, but it targets the companies that import unhealthy products. This intervention must be executed on a state or federal level in order to be meaningful. Muth et al. (2019) state that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued “policy recommendations targeted at federal, state, and local policymakers to improve child nutrition through reduced sugary drink intake” (p. 2). Efficient financial leverage can be attained through policies that impose additional taxes on sugary drinks (Muth et al., 2019).

Moreover, it is crucial to focus on the most vulnerable groups. Studies show that there is a racial and ethnic connotation in the rates of obesity in children, which is linked with average family income that puts these people at a disadvantage (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2017). Therefore, my recommendation to state representative is that differentiating communities according to their susceptibility to childhood obesity, it is possible to allocate finances necessary for enacting policies that prevent unhealthy tendencies in an efficient manner. It can be achieved through higher financial input in social programs, such as SNAP and similar initiatives that help people upkeep a healthy diet.

In conclusion, the U.S. government needs to ensure that the health issues that stem from childhood nowadays will not create a cascade of additional problems for affected people in adulthood. It is vital to take drastic measures regarding all currently underdeveloped positions regarding physical activities and dietary habits in order to reduce adverse outcomes for obesity in the future. These laws must promote a healthy and active lifestyle not only within a school setting but outside it as well. There are numerous opportunities for lawmakers to positively affect this problem, such as through summer camps and learning programs, by educating parents on the importance of proper nutrition and a sufficient amount of physical exercise (Von Hippel & Workman, 2016). The primary focus must be on activities during summer vacations, and on more vulnerable groups who suffer the most from this issue. Such expenditures nowadays will generate more savings on health care in the future.

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References

Muth, N.D., Dietz, W.H., Magge, S.N., Johnson, R.K., American Academy Of Pediatrics, Section On Obesity, Committee On Nutrition, & American Heart Association. (2019). Public policies to reduce sugary drink consumption in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 143(4). Web.

Olstad, D. L., Ancilotto, R., Teychenne, M., Minaker, L. M., Taber, D. R., Raine, K. D., Nykiforuk, C.I.J., & Ball, K. (2017). Can targeted policies reduce obesity and improve obesity-related behaviours in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations? A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 18(7), 791–807. Web.

Von Hippel, P.T. & Workman, J. (2016), From kindergarten through second grade, U.S. children’s obesity prevalence grows only during summer vacations. Obesity, 24, 2296-2300. Web.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2017). Screening for obesity in children and adolescents: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 317(23), 2417–2426. Web.

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