Articles, From the June 7, 2004 Special Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1698 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice - Organized Crime

¶ … articles, from the June 7, 2004 Special Issue, "Overcoming Obesity in America." Childhood obesity is an increasing problem in America, and the world. Most overweight children turn into overweight adults, which creates mounting health problems and costs in the country. Teaching children proper nutrition and exercise at a young age can help ensure that future generations of Americans are healthier and happier.

Studies estimate that at least 30% of America's children are overweight or "at risk" of being overweight. In addition, 80% of those overweight children will turn into overweight adults (Wallis). Obesity is not just a societal issue about how children look. It is a health issue that can lead to many health complications, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, hypertension, and a shortened life span (Editors). Physicians are seeing more problems in children who are overweight than ever before, and this poor health in childhood can lead to increased health care costs for society as more children and adults grapple with weight problems and the associated health problems.

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What causes Childhood obesity? There are many causes of this problem, including increased inactivity in children who, instead of playing outside games, often play inside at the computer, or watch television instead of actively pursuing other activities. These passive activities help the weight problem, as do improper eating habits and a misunderstanding of healthy foods. Some overweight children overeat during sedentary activities, such as watching television or doing homework. In addition, genetics also plays a role in childhood obesity. If there is a history of obesity in the family, children are more likely to be obese, and so, obese families are a major factor in childhood obesity.

Term Paper on Articles, From the June 7, 2004 Special Assignment

There are also many ways to prevent childhood obesity. Parents need to build up good eating habits in the entire family, and teach their children about proper nutrition and exercise. They also need to set good examples for their children, by creating healthy meals and time for the family to play or exercise together. Time Magazine's articles on obesity in the country notes, "To encourage activity, keep the bicycle tires pumped; buy a badminton set; plan a hike. And walk the walk: the best way to get your kids off the sofa is to get up yourself" (Wallis). Clearly, children learn from their parents, and planning family activities together shows the children that a more healthy and active lifestyle is more enjoyable for the entire family. Getting the children involved in creating healthy yet satisfying meals can help the entire family, too. If the parents are also overweight, these lifestyle changes can have a dramatic and lasting affect on the entire family and their outlook.

Prevention can also start in the schools. Most school lunches today are loaded with high-fat, high-calorie options, even if they come from the home kitchen, rather than the school cafeteria. However, changing the way schools feed children is not as simple as it seems. One reporter covering the problem of childhood obesity uncovered some very interesting information about the National School Lunch Program. He found it has more than one mission. He writes, "It's supposed to provide healthy meals to schoolchildren, in many cases for free or at a reduced price. But it's also an agricultural subsidy program that props up farmers' income by buying up surplus food. And much of that food is the very stuff that clogs children's arteries and makes them fat" (Yeoman 30). Thus, school lunches in many schools do not reflect the healthy eating patterns that most dieticians and nutritionists would recommend for America's children, and they could actually be aiding in creating more overweight children. Parents need to monitor the school lunches in their children's schools, and demand healthier alternatives for their children, so they develop healthy eating habits early, and continue them throughout their lives.

While obesity numbers have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, obesity is certainly not only a modern issue. One text states, "Specific research on childhood obesity was underway by the 1930s, again in advance of developments in the United States" (Sobal and Maurer 16). At the same time, educating mothers also became popular, letting them know that the ideal "plump" child might not be so ideal after all. Clearly, the idea of weight management is not a new idea, but in a society that continues to grow larger, it is even more important for the health and well being of American people. Starting education in the earliest grades of school is a good idea, because children learn quickly, and often influence parental decisions from their learning. It would be a good idea to teach nutrition in every grade level in elementary school, and continue the education with healthy class alternatives, such as physical education, low-fat cooking, and other alternatives in the secondary grades.

Treatment of obesity is more difficult than it might seem. Once unhealthy eating habits are established, they are often difficult to alter. Children are accepted in many weight loss programs, such as Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers (Editors), and there are many nutritionists who specialize in childhood nutrition and education. The American Obesity Association reports, "Consultation with a dietitian/nutritionist that specializes in children's needs is often a valuable part of obesity treatment. Nutrition consultants can outline specific and appropriate nutritional needs for healthy growth" (Editors). This is an extremely important consideration in the treatment of childhood obesity. Growing children must still receive the right balance of foods to promote healthy growth, while still promoting weight loss. That is why treatment should always include consultation with a physician, dietician, or nutritionist who is familiar with childhood obesity and its' treatments.

Most professionals agree that obesity can be treated successfully, even in the most difficult cases. In many cases, surgery or drugs are used for adult treatment, but these are not generally accepted for treatment in children, except in cases where the obesity may be caused by some kind of medical condition, such as a thyroid problem. Unfortunately, many weight loss programs are unsuccessful, with the patient losing weight, then actually gaining more weight than was lost - simply adding to the overall problem. Why are so many programs unsuccessful? There are many reasons. Studies indicate "few people have the self-control to follow a restricted diet for long" (Sobal and Maurer 191). It is even more difficult for children, who may see the denial of their favorite foods as punishment, rather than a healthy alternative to their current overweight status. They may see the diet as punishment for being fat, and overeat simply to challenge the control of others over their habits and lifestyle.

One way to help children and their obesity without radically altering their diet is to get them more active. Today's society is much more sedentary than previous societies, and many children simply do not have the alternatives for play they once did. Another Time reporter notes, "School districts were cutting out recess and physical-education (PE) classes to save money; kids in high-crime areas were afraid to go outside; organized sports were becoming high-stress activities, with parents getting into fistfights over disputed referee calls" (Lemonick). Outside activities are simply not as common as they were even a decade or two ago. Reporter Lemonick continues, "And too many children were glued to the couch, playing video games and watching television" (Lemonick). The advent of the computer and two-parent working marriages has created a different lifestyle than a generation or two ago, and these aspects of society add to the mounting problem of obesity in children and adults. Families eat on the run, (often high-fat fast food), and use the television and/or computers as a sort of electronic babysitter. Both children and adults need to be more physically active, and a nutritionist can help families create an exercise program for the entire family… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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