Causes of Childhood Obesity

In the recent years, the issue of childhood obesity has remained one of
the key areas of focus to many governments, health practitioners and
stakeholders across various parts of the world. As indicated by Wills
childhood obesity can be regarded as a condition where excessive fat
levels in the bodies of children, thus affecting their both in the short
and long-term (233). Butcher and Anderson indicate that, “….obesity
and overweight are defined as having a body-mass-index (BMI) above a
particular cutoff point. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided
by height in meters squared (kg/m2). According to guidelines in National
Institutes of Health, an adult is considered underweight if his BMI is
less than 18.5, overweight if his BMI is 25 or more, and obese if his
BMI is 30 or more…..”(3).
In various parts of the globe, health practitioners continue to
highlight the disadvantages associated to obesity. For instance, obesity
can lead to a range of health problems, and compared to people who are
healthy, obese individuals are considered to have high mortality and
morbidity rates. Further, obesity increases the probability of getting
other illnesses such as coronary heart diseases, gall bladder disease,
osteoporosis, ischemic stroke among other diseases. According to Cawley
“childhood obesity is a complex, multidisciplinary issue, so the
search for solutions requires information sharing across many
fields……”(364). Further, Wills notes that “…..as obesity
becomes more prevalent in society today, health care of this population
needs to be addressed. Obesity has been linked to primary and secondary
health issues that affect the medical condition and rehabilitation of
this group….” (230). The following paper will candidly evaluate the
causes of childhood obesity as well as some of the preventing measures,
which can be adopted by governments and stakeholders to curb the issue
of childhood obesity.
Causes
From the above it is clear that, childhood obesity has turned to be one
of the major societal concerns in various parts of the globe. For
instance, in the last three decades it is seen that, obesity level among
school and pre-school has almost tripled to 14% of 2-to 5-years old and
19% of 6-to 11-year olds (Grier et.al 222). There are many causes of
childhood obesity, mainly arising as a result of a range of factors
referred to as Obesogenic environments. According to Kopelman, the
dramatic rise in overweight and obesity over the past several years in
both the adult and pediatric populations has sparked immense interests
in the measurement of body composition….”(10).
A review carried out in 2010, concluded that, obesity among children
arises from the interactions of natural selections, which favor those
having increasing parsimonious energy metabolism and the current
consumerist society having easy accessibility to cheap foods having
less energies crucial to healthy living among children. As indicated by
Slyper ….“the observation that the weight of the pediatric
population has been increasing without an increase in calories has
suggested to many that decreased caloric expenditure must be a
significant contributor to the current obesity epidemic…’ (2540).
According to Better Health Channel, “…..the number of overweight
children in Australia has doubled in recent years, with a quarter of
children considered overweight or obese. Causes of obesity in children
include unhealthy food choices, lack of physical activity and family
eating habits……..” (1). Further, Marder asserts that, in the U.S.,
…”the annual healthcare costs are about $6,700 for children treated
for obesity covered by Medicaid and about $3,700 for obese children with
private insurance……” (1).
Lack of Physical Exercises
One of the major causes of obesity among children results from lack of
physical exercises, both at school and home. As depicted by Slyper,
computer games, video games, televisions among others conspires to keep
children indoors, thus few calories are on active physical activities
(2541). For instance, the number of children who participate in playing
video games as well as increased in the recent pasts, a factor which has
resulted to raised cases violence among other negative aspects. In the
U.S., it is estimated that, 90% of kids from the age of 8 to 16 play
video games, where they spend over 13 hours on weekly basis, thus
raising their levels of physical in activities. The long hours spend on
video games among other computer games raises the level of physical
inactiveness, thus increasing obesity cases among these societies.
Mass Media Marketing
The other aspect which has raised the issue of obesity among children is
mass media. The marketing activities are either carried through
televisions, online method such as through serach engines among others.
In the U.S., the market share of fast foods has highly expanded as
compared to any other segments of way-from-home foods since 1980s. As
indicated by Grier et.al “….in 2003, the fast food market expanded
by 2.3%, thus a total sale of $148.6 billion a factor attributable to
efficient marketing mix….”(227). As seen in chart below, parents
influence the eating habits of their children either directly or
indirectly.
(Grier et.al 227)
It is clear that, marketing of fast foods differs from one community to
the other, as a result of the type and amount of targeted marketing
strategies as well as levels of media exposure. Fast food marketing has
greatly increased levels of obesity among preschoolers as well as school
going children. As a result, there is a great and urgent need for fast
food restaurants among other stakeholders to offer information regarding
nutrition at the point of purchase. Consequently, this will have
positive effects through children.
Diet
The other factor leading to increased cases of obesity among children is
poor nutrition. It is clear that, unhealthy lunch options as well as
regular intake of foods having high levels of energies such as cookies,
fast foods among other baked goods, candy, soda, vending machine snacks
all contributes to unhealthy gain of weight. In the US, it is evident
that, over 27% of children are engaged in unhealthy eating, a factor
which has resulted to high levels of obesity in the country (Grier et.al
226). This trend is replicated in other developed countries such as the
United Kingdom among others. Generally, consumption of fast foods should
be highly discouraged. This is due to the fact that, fast foods results
to obesity, thus giving rise to other diseases mostly associated to the
heart among children as well as adults across various parts of the
globe.
Environment
Parents’ acts as role models for their children and the latter will
probably what the find their parents eating. Besides, when a child feels
hungry, he/she will eat anything she finds at her disposal. For
instance, if the kitchen cabinets or fridge is stocked with candy bars,
chips, pizza, among other junky foods, then that is probably what a
child would consume. In the same way, if the refrigerator is stocked
with vegetables, tasty fruits, high fiber foods, fresh juices, then they
would consume the same (Johnson et al. 846-854). This means that parents
should stock the kitchen environment with healthy foods if they want to
manage the health of their children. Schools should provide healthy
environments, which can help children fight against obesity. As argued
by Pekruhn, “…Schools have many powerful tools at their disposal to
serve as one of the primary agents to address the obesity crisis (e.g.,
access to children for significant amounts of time in their daily lives,
mechanisms for education and reinforcement of healthy behaviors, and are
portals to accessing the community at large)…”(4).
Psychological Factors
Psychological factors play a significant role in adult obesity, and as
adults, some children might rely on food as a mechanism for managing
negative emotions or problems including anxiety, stress and boredom.
Besides, children who struggle to deal with death of a family member,
divorce or separation may result in eating more, thus making them
vulnerable to becoming obese.
Genetics
Single-handedly, genetic factors contribute greatly in childhood
obesity. Uncommon genetic disorders including Prader-Willi syndrome and
Cushing`s syndrome (a hormonal disorder) have an effect on small
percentage of children. Currently, heredity has been evidenced to
control fat distribution, fatness, as well as response to overfeeding.
It has been discovered that children who originate from a family of
overweight persons or obese parents have a high probability of being
obese as they are genetically prone and predisposed to gaining weight,
particularly if they do not engage in physical exercise or eat food with
high calorie content (Cawley 364-371).
Besides, children with specific genes are more prone to store much fat
easily as compared to other children. Research shows that 5 to 25
percent of obesity cases are as a result of heredity. Though the genetic
characteristics of persons have not modified in the past three decades,
obesity amongst school going children has amplified during that period.
In the United States, roughly one in five youngsters aged between six
and seventeen is currently overweight, double as compared to the figures
in 1980s. The relationship between environment and genetics is certain
and parents, who offer genetics, food, and act as a role model to their
children should be very conscious.
Medical Conditions
There are specific hormonal disorders and genetic diseases that
influence childhood obesity, although they are rare. These include
hypothyroidism, Prader-Willi syndrome, and Cushing`s syndrome. These
disorders and diseases interfere with the body metabolism and feelings
of hunger and these are highly linked with weight gain and obesity.
Sleep
Children aged two years and below are supposed to sleep for
approximately 13 hours every day. Research indicates that children who
sleep below the suggested time have a high probability of becoming obese
at the age of seven (Veugelers & Fitzgerald 607-613). Kids with
insufficient night sleep are at greater risks of becoming obese as
compared to those who get adequate amount of rest. If a parent notices
that her child has a higher probability of being obese, good rest would
assist her against potential risks. There are a number of reasons given
to support this fact, for instance, fatigue is said to modify the levels
of hormones which regulate appetite.
A research was carried out in New Zealand that investigated 244
children. The researchers, who followed these children from age 3 to 7,
found out that inadequate sleep considerably amplified the possibility
of being overweight (Veugelers & Fitzgerald 607-613). Those who obtained
sufficient sleep at the ages of 3 to 5 were less probable (61%) to being
obese at the age of seven. As argued by Johnson, “…future studies
should incorporate data on both diet and activity behaviors collected
simultaneously to further investigate the relation between dietary
patterns, activity, and fatness….” (853).
Lack of Breastfeeding Support
Studies have shown that breastfeeding improves resistance to childhood
obesity and overweight (Slyper 2540-2547). Nevertheless, in the United
States, whilst 75 percent of mothers begin breastfeeding, just 13
percent of the newborns are fully breastfed up to the age of six months
(Slyper 2540-2547). This has resulted in high levels of obesity amongst
the young children which continues in their adulthood. Mothers who have
the desire of breastfeeding their children can enhance their success
rate by obtaining support from clinicians, families, healthcare leaders,
friends, as well as policymakers. The following section briefly
describes some of the methods, which can be adopted by governments and
stakeholders to curb the increasing cases of obesity among children in
various parts of the globe.
Ways of Preventing Childhood Obesity
Involving Community Nurses
Across the community-based and healthcare settings, community nurses
play an essential role of advocating for families as well as individuals
in implementing activities that are evidence-based designed to curb
excessive weight attainment and ensuring weight loss among the obese
individuals. It is important to note that the provision of nursing care
does not only involve the provision of compassionate care but also
incorporates advocacy programs, which are aimed at ensuring healthy
lifestyles for the community (Grier 230). Besides, the community nursing
can provide education to the expectant mothers on the obese prevention
strategies to ensure the new born lead healthy lifestyles (Grier 233).
The nurses can therefore take an active role in monitoring the growth of
the children from the time they are born, providing the recommended
measures to their mother to ensure the young population is free from
obesity. The education and monitoring programs can as well be applied to
patients that have already been diagnosed with obesity. This is aimed at
ensuring that the patients receive adequate care to prevent their
condition from worsening, as well as preventing them from acquiring
other health related problems associated with obesity such as coronary
heart disease. In summary, the community nurses can provide education
programs to the community members on healthy lifestyles, diagnose and
treat with obesity patients through the provision of effective care, and
monitor the health of the patients that have already been diagnosed with
obesity to prevent their condition from worsening (Grier 234).
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Health promotion in Relation to Obesity
Health promotion can be described as a process of educating people on
how to attain healthy life styles as well as encouraging them on how to
become mangers of their own lives. Health is concerned with health
education to enhance the well being of the patients through influencing
the attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and the behavior of the community,
health protection, which encompasses codes of practice and policies that
are aimed at improving the well being of the community and prevention,
which refers to the preliminary detection of the disease, monitoring of
the progress and the final outcome.
However, prevention can be divided into three categories, primary,
secondary and tertiary prevention (Kopelman 29). Primary prevention
deals with the promotion of good health and disease prevention, such as
taking regular exercises or maintaining a balanced diet to prevent
obesity. Secondary prevention is concerned with the detection and
treatment of the disease before serious damage occurs. For instance,
this involves screening the body to establish the body’s fats level.
It also involves taking regulatory measures such as engaging in physical
activities to cut on the body’s fat levels. Tertiary prevention on the
other hand, is concerned with the prevention of the worsening and the
complications among the people considered to have established a disease.
For instance, this involves health eating habits and control of weight
among the people that have been diagnosed with obesity to ensure their
conditions do not get worsen or rather get other complications or health
related problems that accompany obesity (Wills 233).
Conclusion
In conclusion it is clear that, there is the need for civic education on
the need of healthy eating with the aim of controlling increasing cases
of obesity among children. As indicated by Veugelers, “…..increase
in childhood overweight and obesity have become an important public
health problem in industrialized nations. Preventive public health
action is required, but more research of risk factors is required before
evidence-based initiatives can be developed and targeted
effectively…”(607). Further, there is the need to develop certain
health determinants, in order to aid the government into developing
preventive measures that will ensure obesity rates are reduced in the
country. Indeed, these determinants of health will help the government
identify the strategies that will be applied in preventing childhood
obesity (Cawley 366). Schools should provide healthy environments, which
can help children fight against obesity. Generally, there is the need
for children to engage in more physical activities and change the eating
patterns to more healthy foods among others methods.
Works Cited
Better Health Channel. Obesity in children – causes. State of
Victoria, Australia. 2013. Print.
Butcher, Kristin F. and Anderson Patricia M. Childhood Obesity: Trends
and Potential Causes. Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. 2005.
Cawley, John.Worsening Trends, Action Agenda: The Economics of Childhood
Obesity. Health Aff.2010 29: 364 – 371.
Grier, Sonya A., Mensinger Janell, Huang Shirley H., Kumanyika Shiriki
K, and Stettler Nicolas. Fast-Food Marketing and Children’s Fast-Food
Consumption: Exploring Parents’ Influences in an Ethnically Diverse
Sample. American Marketing Association Vol. 26 (2) Fall 2007, 221–235.
2007. Print. Accessed on 7 April 2013 from,

Johnson Laura, Mander Adrian P, Jones Louise, Emmett Pauline M. & Jebb
Susan A. Energy-dense, low-fiber, high-fat dietary pattern is associated
with increased fatness in childhood. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 87: 846-854.
Kopelman, Peter G. Clinical obesity in adults and children: In Adults
and Children. Blackwell Publishing. 2005.
Marder, William D. Childhood Obesity: Costs, Treatment Patterns,
Disparities in Care, and Prevalent Medical Conditions. THOMSON MEDSTAT
RESEARCH BRIEF. 2006.
Pekruhn, Colin. Preventing Childhood Obesity: A School Health Policy
Guide. National Association of State Boards of Education. 2009.
Slyper Arnold H. The pediatric obesity epidemic: causes and
controversies. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 89: 2540-2547.
Veugelers Paul J. & Fitzgerald Angela L. Prevalence of and risk factors
for childhood overweight and obesity. CMAJ. 2005 173:607-613.
Wills Mary. Orthopedic complications of childhood obesity. Pediatr Phys
Ther. 2004 16:230-235.
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