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The Problem of Childhood Obesity in the United States


Childhood obesity is one of the reasons for the development of chronic diseases (Barker & DeNisco, 2012). In the USA, this problem is quite burning as the percentage of obese children increased significantly. The percentage of such children aged 6-11 was 18% in 2012 (compared to 7% in 1980) (Childhood obesity facts, 2015). It has also been acknowledged that there are certain disparities as regards childhood obesity. Thus, Lovasi, Hutson, Guerra and Neckerman (2009) argue that children of black race and those pertaining to Hispanic ethnicity are more likely to develop this health condition. Notably, black girls are more likely to be obese than females of other ethnic background while Mexican-American males are more likely to be obese than boys of other ethnic backgrounds.

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However, it is also clear that ethnicity, race and gender are not the only and even major reasons for development of this health condition. These groups are often financially disadvantaged. They have to live in low-income neighborhoods that do not have ‘healthy’ infrastructure. In other words, these neighborhoods do not have enough parks, exercise facilities and so on. These families also have various financial constraints and often cannot afford healthy diets. It is also clear that the food environment also contributes to development of such health conditions as these groups often have access to convenience stored and supermarkets are quite scarce (Lovasi et al., 2009). This results in consumption of unhealthy food and increase in body weight. These families also pay less attention to having a healthy lifestyle as they are overwhelmed by numerous issues.


Barker and DeNisco (2012) note that the US government paid quite little attention to preventive measures related to weight control in children prior to the 1990s. There was little understanding of the need to invest more in preventive measures that could reduce development of chronic diseases and, as a result, extensive healthcare expenditure. Public health facilities were also concerned with treating disorders rather than preventing them. There were only a few programs aimed at educating people about healthy lifestyles.

However, the increase in the number of obese children has forced authorities to be more active. Thus, the Affordable Care Act that was turned into law in 2010 provides many opportunities for people struggling with financial issues. According to the law, children and adolescents get qualified health plans that focus on preventive services and care (Summary of the Affordable Care Act, 2013). Private healthcare facilities and agencies provide extensive information on the matter and make a lot of effort to engage patients and their close ones into healthy practices. Public healthcare facilities are also trying to hire more nursing professionals and counselors who can guide people in relation to healthy lifestyle (Barker & DeNisco, 2012). Besides, various non-profit organizations, educational establishments develop and launch a variety of incentives to address the issue and train children and their parents to have a healthier lifestyle.

Eliminating Disparities

It is necessary to note that existing disparities can be (at least, partially) eliminated with the help of certain ethic principles. It is possible to apply principles of virtue ethics in relation to the disparities mentioned above. As has been mentioned above, socio economic issues are the major cause of childhood obesity. Hence, it is important to address these issues first. As regards ethical principles, people should think of the right ways to act and to live.

The public and every community should think of the development of their area as well as other areas of their cities as this is the right way to contribute to the development of the society. It is important to allocate money in the ethically right way and instead of building a new facility in a well-off neighborhood, it is much more righteous to fund construction of exercise facility or a park area in a poor neighborhood.

Of course, business should also be involved. Big supermarket chains often focus on profit and build their facilities in places where more people can buy more products and poor neighborhoods are not such areas. However, sustainable development and true contribution into development of communities (which is claimed to be one priorities of many businesses) will include construction of supermarkets with affordable and healthy products. People will be able to buy healthier food at reasonable prices and will be more engaged in healthy practices as they will cook good food for their children.

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Religion and Obesity

It has been acknowledged that people’s religious beliefs have a significant impact on their body weight. Thus, Orthodox Jewish communities are characterized by a high rate of obese people. Thus, more than a half of those participating in a survey in Chicago attended the church regularly and had excessive body weight (Briggs, 2011). The Catholic Church also pays little attention to healthy dietary habits. At that, the two religions are characterized by many festivities where food plays an important role, and it is seen as one of God’s blessings. It is clear that children in families that regularly attend the church and follow the canons of their religion become obese.

It is also important to add that the issue of obesity is not addressed in the church, as religious leaders do not want to stigmatize children or make them feel uneasy. The problem is somewhat silenced, which leads to parents’ ignorance. Parents do not pay attention to the problem and see their children’s body weight as something that will be regulated in the future. Parents focus on spiritual development of their children and pay little attention to healthy diets and habits. It is noteworthy that religion contributes greatly to the problem, as the most vulnerable groups (African Americans and Hispanic people) tend to practice Christianity.

Impact of Nurses

It is necessary to note that nursing professionals will play an important role in treating and preventing childhood obesity in the future. These professionals are in the closest contact with populations. Of course, they often interact with obese children who are patients or even relatives of patients. Nurses can be trained to draw obese children’s and their parents’ attention to the problem in the appropriate way. Clearly, stigmatization or some kind of insult is inappropriate. However, there are ways to start the discussion of the problem and nurses should make it begin.

Nursing professionals often develop proper relations with patients and their close ones who trust and often rely on nurses. This rapport can be used to promote healthy life styles and engage people in healthy practices. Of course, nurses are equipped with the necessary knowledge and they can and should draw people’s attention to negative outcomes of childhood obesity. Admittedly, contemporary people tend to trust healthcare professionals and scientific data. Therefore, they can be encouraged to start acting to address the problem.

Finally, nursing professionals can also participate in the research on the problem as they can provide a lot of data to researchers when communicating with those affected by the disorder. Nurses should also be active in launching various incentives aimed at educating people living in the community. Nursing staff can become the force that will make people as well as officials make more effort to address the issue, which is becoming quite alarming.

Reference List

Barker, A.M., & DeNisco, S.M. (2012). Advanced practice nursing: Evolving roles for the transformation of the profession. Boston, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Briggs, D. (2011). Religion and obesity; Report associates religious activity with weight gain. Huffington Post. Web.

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Childhood obesity facts. (2015). Web.

Lovasi, G.S., Hutson, M.A., Guerra, M., & Neckerman, K.M. (2009). Built environments and obesity in disadvantaged populations. Epidemiologic Reviews, 31, 7-20.

Summary of the Affordable Care Act. (2013). Web.

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