Running head: ADDRESING THE ISSUE OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Addressing the Issue of Childhood Obesity
Addressing the issue of Childhood Obesity
The good old days, when there was no big screen or flat screen TV, we used to spend our time outside home. Telephone was a rarity; so people used to travel or spend time in neighborhood in their spare times. There were no computers, laptops, iPods or cellphones; so the major sources of entertainment were evening get together, park walks, bicycle rides and skating were our favorite activities. This era was the peak of childhood amusements like jacks, hide and seek and kick ball. Bicycle was the most preferred medium for almost everywhere I had to go. My times were pleasurably more inclined towards physical activities, and amusements were limited to physical outreach.
Today, children of new generations are surrounded by most technically equipped gadgets that have completely revolutionized the way they spend their childhood. Sitting at home, over the LCDs, they can play games that are truly addictive. Moreover, they can have access to almost everything they want to know. Cellphone is the biggest addiction of new generation. Computers and laptops have become a necessity rather than a luxury. Today’s child is technically more informed than our generation. But the cost this generation is bearing could be attributed to their physical appearances where glasses and obesity have become a common problem in America. Since computer games have obsessed the new generation, the trend of street games is essentially disappearing.
We cannot simply blame computer games for limiting the physical activity. There are other social aspects as well that are restricting children from physical enjoyment opportunities. Over last five to ten years, street crimes have doubled in America, and parents are certainly worried about the security position in the cities. They are afraid to let their children out alone, and our conscious about them even when they are at school. Consequently, parents have to equip their surroundings with sufficient gadgets that could keep them busy within the premises. This makes children from new generation spend most of their time watching TV, surfing internet, playing video games and chatting or texting with friends. Consequently, irregular eating patterns have developed, and now snacks and fast food are routine items for children today.
Till the twentieth century, the tradition of families sitting together and having meals altogether was considered a ritual. Normally the representative of a family earned bread for everyone, and women were accustomed to the nourishment of children and home related activities. Dinners were served once every evening and each member of the house was accustomed to accompany everyone. But since the obsession of computing and personalization has increased because of cellphones and internet, children prefer spending their times alone since a generation gap has been created because of difference in brought up environment. Therefore, they prefer eating alone in their bedroom, especially because their eating habits have been altered previously due to irregular consumption of snacks and other junk food (Kiefer, 2004). As a result, overweighting in schools is becoming a regular problem.
In high schools, it is becoming evident that people are quite dominantly involved in playing computer or other games, and using computers for social communication. Such children account to 25% which is only expected to rise. In this context, bike riding, basketball or skating is replaced by motor biking, gaming or TV. Unfortunately, the access to mobile phones have furthered contributed to widespread usage of social networking websites, so now there is a rare need of physical interaction (Bodel, 2010).
There are many studies that have correlated the excessive use of these technical items with irregular eating patterns. A study from Stanford prevention research center indicated that children that spend more time on watching media and related activities are more likely to consume unhealthy food and develop irregular patterns. Many of them might not even stop eating just because they get so involved in the media that there’s nothing distracting their eating routine. Similarly, watching TV also contributes to poor eating habits, and bad food choice which is increasingly witnessed among young children at metabolic rates (Bodel, 2010).
There are a larger number of children, in American, who are overweight and unhealthy, according to the center for disease control and prevention (2010). Statistically, the figures are unwelcoming. 30.3% of kids, aging between 6 and 11 are overweight. In teenage, the rate of obesity is around 15.3%. Out of all these figures, overweighing boys account 30.4% more than overweighing girls. Moreover, this problem majorly prevails among low-income families. These gadgets have essentially changed the paradigm of childhood activities, and now children are more interested in laptops, cellphones and iPods than basketball, skaters or probably a bicycle. The joy of soccer is now instigated within FIFA games. Being in school could guarantee a day or two of gym but, at home, exercising equipment would probably be expensive than a cellphone or iPod. Now physical activities are essentially restricted to school systems. If you are not on the football team or into athletics, you are probably pursuing a lost cause. Parents specially have to force their children into some physical activities like bicycling or gym in order to keep them physically healthy and strong.
Over the period of last four five years, since the economic conditions have deteriorated globally, schools have become more conscious about their spending. Funding to support the physical education programs is not there anymore because of so many cut backs within the school systems. Physical activities are no longer in the top priority for the schools (Bradley, 2010). Only 6 % of school in the U.S. offers daily physical education, according to Debbye Turner’s Reports. The N.A. for sports and physical education recommends 2 ½ hours of physical activity in a week for elementary schools and 4 hours for middle and high school students. Unfortunately, sports teams are there but the cost of inducing a child into sport teams has raised up to $500.00 per child. The administration is now focusing more towards academia rather than physical fitness of children; hence while admitting a child in the school, they are more interested in testing verbal, writing and quantitative skills rather than physical capabilities (Chaffins, 2010).
These conditions have provoked obesity at higher levels in the country. Parents are worried about the present conditions of their children and fear about the future especially since their bodies are physically not tuned for healthy life. Schools have little resources to be allocated in this regard, so parents are forced to make other arrangements to keep their children involved in extracurricular activities. Many parents have adopted strict behaviors to limit their children’s access to televisions. They follow a strict quota system rule at their homes to provide specific hours of television or computer access to their children. Such parents usually keep their children involved with them in home related work so that they get better grooming opportunities along with physical moment. This also makes them realize and use different senses they are blessed with, which could otherwise be damaged because of obesity.
As per data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 75% of mothers that have children between the ages of 6 and 17 are working in areas other than from their homes. 2000 census showed that 31% of households are single parent families, up from 13% in 1970. This has left parents with less time at home, and preparing nutritious meals for their growing child. Consequently, children are encouraged to eat junk and unhealthy foods like fast foods, which do not satisfy their nutritional needs. So, children consume more junk food, which contains more fat than necessary vitamins, iron and proteins. According to an August 2002 Gallup Youth Survey, 20%of teenagers aged 13 to 17 eat fast food every day or several times a week.
Families in the United State do not eat dinner as a family like they should. 75% of U.S. parents say that there families eat together at least four night a week. Data in a December 2003 Gallup poll confirmed that having dinner together in the evening is difficult for families nowadays (Appendix A). 28% adults with children under the age of 18, compared to 37% in 1997, reported that their families eat dinner together at home many times a week. A study also revealed that teenagers who have dinner with their families two nights a week or less are twice as likely to take drugs, more likely to be highly stressed, more likely to say they are often bored, and less likely to perform well in school than teens who eat with their family 5 to 7 times a week (Kiefer, 2004). There were fewer empty seats in families eating together in 20 century, than is today.
Caucasians and African Americans have the highest rates of obesity in America, in 2007; African American women were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as non-Hispanic whites. In 2003-2007 African American women were 70% more likely to be obese than white women. Between 2003 to 2004 African American children between 6 to 17 were 1.3 times as likely to be overweight than whites. 65% of American women are overweight while 30%are considered obese. 70% of women are white and 50% of them are overweight (McDonald, 2011).
It has been observed that children will benefit health-wise from eating dinner at home with family, as this gives parents a chance to talk to their children about healthy meals and their grades. Although, children now are taking part in more after school activities, than in the 20th century, but very less are involved in physical activities.
Unfortunately, children are eating up a giant portion of fast foods industry today. Mostly unhealthy food, with no fruits or veggies, is resulting in high tooth calories decay. A poor nutrition food may be linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol type 2 diabetes and many more diseases such as lumps, joint disease, stress, bones and lunges.
There is a need to plan a formal exercise program, which could be aimed at becoming more active and burning excessive fats. Most studies have not shown exercise to be successful strategy for weight loss unless coupled with another intervention, such as nutrition education or behavior modification (Author, 2010). Many behavior strategies used with adults have been successful. It requires dedication since it involves self-monitoring and recording of food intake and physical activity. Obesity is easy to prevent than to treat. Early childhood education should include proper nutritional low fat food along with good physical activities/habits along with monitoring of time spent with gadgets.
The evidence does not support the contention that television viewing contributes to obesity because it is sedentary activity. It is not television but the eating habits associated with viewing it that causes obesity.
Global penetration of technological products and heavy involvement of women in corporate sector has changed the scenario for children of 20th century. Since both parents are now busy earning for the family, children usually eat unhealthy foods from the market mostly. Mothers are so busy working that they rarely have time to cook healthy meals daily. So children do not get healthy nutritious meal they should get at this stage.
In order to overcome this problem, there is a need to educate the families on healthy food consumption and childhood obesity, so that they involve their children into physical activities not only at home, but at schooling as well. Through promoting joint meals habit, together as a family at the same table, will help both parents and children in discussing such issues together. This will help them work as a community, and come together to share, educate and support the efforts of fighting obesity. Promoting physical activity at schooling is very necessary (Bradley, 2010). A change in attitude is required which includes avoidance of fast foods, and consumption of nutritious meals.
If nothing is done, the future for American children will certainly be problematic. Sickness and worsening health conditions may result in a lot of sick children, which may result is young deaths. We need to change our behavior, and be certain about the intake of calories every day. Otherwise, there are approximately 300,000 deaths a year due to obesity
Through this research, I have learnt the importance of healthy diet and how devastating obesity could be for us. I will do my best to educate children and parents around regarding this problem, so that they could develop healthy habits and avoid obesity which could serve a bigger problem in future of their kids.
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