Childhood Obesity Term Paper

Pages: 20 (5949 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 52  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - African-American

As is widely known, in the state of California the largest ethnic minority is Hispanic, and mostly Mexican-American. It is for this reason that the particular population of Hispanic-American youth in the San Francisco School District will be the focus of this work. "Hispanics now account for one in three of the state's population, due largely to an increase in Hispanic births that is exceeding the Hispanic death rate.' (Primedia, 2004, "Shifting Sands" website (

The population of the greater San Francisco Unified School District, though it includes many other racial minorities, has an overall representation of 21.4% latino students with an even higher concentration found in grades one through six. (SFUSD web site: ( This demographic demonstrates both an obstacle and an opportunity for the development of a program or plan that will assist this generation and those to come in their attempts to reduce the number of Hispanic youths with this serious problem. Yet, more importantly without a global intervention within this and other populations the problem will likely continue to skyrocket. Most importantly without sustainable solutions to this problem, which clearly consider and respond to individual identity, be it racial or otherwise there will be no long-term change in either habit or health of children.

Review of Literature

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Within the literature associated with the growing problem of obesity among American children there is a seminal understanding of several key factors the greatest being the demonstrative, some would say exponential, growth of unhealthy body weights at younger and younger ages. Children of all races are at risk as we have said before, and the challenges are great. The initial studies that will be examined here are both general and specific to factor isolation.

Term Paper on Childhood Obesity One of the Assignment

In Race/Ethnicity, Social Class and Their Relation to Physical Inactivity During Leisure Time, Results from Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted between the years 1988 and1994 are analysed and the findings isolate the factors of race and social class as issues that in part influence the demonstration of active physical leisure activity. The findings demonstrate that there is a strong correlation between both race and social class, with regard to the level of inactive activities that people engage in during their leisure time. The findings suggest that the highest risk group would be those who are at socioeconomic lows and also are of ethnic minority backgrounds. "Ample evidence has shown that racial and ethnic minorities engage in less leisure time physical activities than Non-Hispanic whites." (Crespo, Smit, Anderson, Carter-Pokras, Ainsworth, 2000, pg. 46)

Yet the researchers also make clear that the factor of ethnicity cannot be separated from age and social class. (pg. 46)

The study surveyed both adults and children through the statistics of the NHANES III conducted as a home questionnaire survey between 1988 and 1994. This work is an interpretive analysis of these statistics, using a sample of non-institutionalized individuals in the U.S. beginning at age 2 months with no end age.

The challenge of the statistical analysis was to attempt to isolate ethnicity and social class but the variety of ages surveyed also led to interesting results with regard to the samples.

The data consists of both a physical assessment and a social class assessments.

The results as stated by the work demonstrates that both men and women of the Mexican-American ethnicity showed a significantly higher tendency to exhibit the highest levels of leisure time inactivity, and that gender mattered with regard to education level, as Mexican-American men who had completed 12 years of education tended to have a slightly lower level of leisure time inactivity. (pg. 48)

The greatest importance of this work, as it mainly analyses adults, is the significant impact of the parent child relationship within Mexican-American households. The challenges associated with this issue, as parents and adult role models in the high-risk groups, Mexican-American households with lower social class are demonstrating leisure inactivity as a standard for their children. The authors do also point out that the level of inactivity exhibited by these adults may be influenced by the relative physical nature of their employment, (pg. 49) yet this does little to create an example for their children as the children do not benefit from the physical activity of their parents labour, nor do they often spend much time with parents when they are at work, therefore the example is set in the home and can not be beneficial to the child. Though this is clearly only one influential factor, it is a significant one and would lead many to believe the situation can only be combated through change within or additional strong influences without, such as in school programs.

Another factor of great importance in this question is the association, not of modeling but actual physical attributes of ethnicity as a factor for obesity. In Ethnic Issues in the Epidemiology of Childhood Obesity a prominent group of health researchers discuss some of the historical aspects of the issue of ethnicity and health problems, mainly here obesity. (Crawford, Story, Wang, Ritchie, Sabry, 2001, pgs. 855-873) One interesting fact included in this work demonstrates that the modeling of parents cannot be an isolated factor for blame as many preschool aged children are obese almost from birth. "Reports from PedNSS show that the prevalence of obesity for Mexican-American preschoolers, aged 4-5 years, increased from 10.6% (1982-1984) to 13.2% (1988-1994) for girls, and from 4.9% to 12.0% for boys." This is also a significantly higher rate of preschool obesity than in either the White or African-American populations, according to Crawford and colleagues. (pg. 858-859) Another study, addresses the challenges of prevention and treatment of obese children among which the most significant are mothers who: 1. focused on surviving daily life stress. 2. used food to cope with stress and as a tool in parenting 3. had difficulty setting limits with children 4. lacked knowledge about normal child development and eating behavior 5. were not committed to sustained behavioral change and 6. did not believe their overweight children where overweight. (Chamberlin, Sherman, Jain, Powers, Whitaker, 2002, pg. 1) The last issue, mothers perceptions or misperceptions of the degree of the problem a preschool child may have with their health also spurned other research on the subject and found it to be a significant obstacle to change. (Baughcum, Chamberlin, Deeks, Powers, Whitaker, 2000, pgs. 1380-1381)

Though modeling can not be removed from the mix when speaking of the older children, "Data from NHANES-III showed that male Mexican-American children aged 6-11 years and adolescents, aged 12-17 years, experienced higher rates of obesity, 18.8% and 14.% respectively, than African-Americans (14.7%, 12.5%) and whites (13.1%, 11.8%)." (pgs. 859-860) Similar reflective percentages are true of female Mexican-Americans, with the exception that African-American females obesity rates exceed those of Mexican-American females in this age group. (pg. 860) Though the gender difference in these two sets of numbers would indicate a genetic connection an additional and noteworthy finding by these researchers more strongly points towards ethnicity, combined with environemtn as a strong causal factors. "It is noteworthy that generational differences were observed-only 26% of first generation Hispanic adolescents were obese compared to 33% of second and third generation Hispanics." (pg. 860)

Within this work adaptive mechanisms were discussed as more and more substantiation is associated with ethnicity as a strong indicator of risk. Two significant theories are detailed,

According to the thrifty gene theory, certain populations that have migrated to affluent industrialized societies are predisposed to obesity because harsh conditions, such as famine, experienced by previous generations resulted in genetic selection for populations with highly efficient (thrifty) metabolisms and, therefore, low metabolic rates. (pg. 862)

An additional theory along these same lines is a significant answer to the increased rates of obesity and type II diabetes among some ethnic minorities.

The thrifty phenotype hypothesis suggests that insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and insulin-sensitive tissues in the body adapt in response to poor nutrition during fetal and infant life, resulting in decreased growth in early life at the cost of increased risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes in later childhood and adulthood. (pg. 682)

The study also mentioned the possibility of a bell curve statistic associated with a higher level of obesity in youth and adulthood as associated with both low and high birth weight, a demonstrative aspect of many at risk populations. (Hediger, Overpeck, McGlynn, Kuczmarski, Maurer, Davis, 1999, pg. e33) In another study ther ewas a link found between prolonged bottle use and overweight (Bonuck, & Kahn, 2002, pgs. 1-9) and yet another determined that one of the most significant periods of development than can effect obese or overweight outcome is prenatal. (Dietz, 1997, pgs. 1884S-1885S)

These bits of information clearly demonstrate additional need for early intervention for at risk populations. The work goes on to further outline some of the major issues also associated with high rates of obesity, more traditionally linked to its… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Childhood Obesity.  (2004, October 10).  Retrieved September 21, 2020, from

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"Childhood Obesity."  10 October 2004.  Web.  21 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Childhood Obesity."  October 10, 2004.  Accessed September 21, 2020.