Thesis: Childhood Obesity

Pages: 7 (1975 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Health - General Health Issues  ·  Buy This Paper

Childhood Obesity

A view that has been found to be true from many different analytical perspectives is that obesity among children in the United States is a complex and multidimensional problem. The central thesis that will be explored in this paper is that there is no one single cause of obesity among children but rather that the causative factors behind obesity are multidimensional due to the fact that several different factors can contribute to childhood obesity.

However, many critics argue that while this multidimensionality is valid in understanding obesity, yet there are certain variables and aspects of the problem that are more salient or important than others. In other words, the argument is also put forward that not all the causative factors that are related to the problem of childhood obesity are of equal weight. A view that that will be considered in this paper is that some factors are more relevant in establishing the central causative factors of this social and health problem than others.

The stance is taken by some analysts that a lack of exercise at schools and a reduction in formal structures for physical education is a core factor that has resulted in the present alarming state of affairs. From other perspectives, life style aspects and sedentary habits and overindulgence in inactive entertainment are a cardinal cause of obesity that must be addressed. Another view is that food that has poor nutritional value is the central nexus of this problem.

It is obvious that all these factors contribute to the problem of obesity. However, the choice of the dominating cause often determines the focus and the emphasis in programs or projects intended to deal with this problem. Furthermore, various different theories also have to be taken into account. This includes less explored areas of this problem; such as the increasingly important view that obesity differs from overweight and that prejudice against an individual who is overweight in fact increases overeating and serves as a psychological impetus that may lead to obesity. The issue of social bias and prejudice towards the overweight individuals is therefore an important aspect in determining successful protocols and strategies for dealing with this problem.

The importance of finding solutions to this problem is illustrated by the following graph.

Figure 1. The prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents aged six to nineteen years of age.

(Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm)

2. An extended analysis of the problem of childhood obesity

2.1. Physical exercise as a central factor

There are many experts in this area who feel that the lack of physical exercise, particularly at school level is a major contributing factor to childhood obesity and that other causes are secondary. One study notes that researchers have "…rated physical inactivity as significantly more important than any other cause of obesity…" (Gary D. Foster et al.). As various studies, surveys and reports state, this is an aspect that has been neglected to a large extent in American schools and in the educational system.

The value of physical exercise is related to the issue of health and balance; particularly with regard to the balance between nutrition and physical exercise. If this balance is not maintained then obesity becomes a possibility. It has been found that even a slight increase in physical education at schools can lead to decease in overweight and to the prevention of later obesity problems. A report from the National Institute for Heath Care Management states this fact clearly.

Adding one hour per week to PE instruction time could decrease the prevalence of overweight among girls by 10% and the prevalence of at-risk-for-overweight among girls by 21%. Adding 30 minutes per week to PE instruction time could decrease the prevalence of overweight among girls by 5% and the prevalence of at-risk for-overweight among girls by 10%

(Obesity in Young Children: Impact and Intervention. NICHM Research Brief. 2004.)

The following figures from the above report also add weight to the view that there is a relative lack of physical education at schools.

Figures 2 and 3

( source: http://www.nihcm.org/~nihcmor/pdf/OYCbrief.pdf)

2.2. Food quality and obesity

On the other hand there are many critics who put the blame for obesity on food quality. This refers especially to the intake of high-calorie and 'junk' foods. This view is strongly supported by research studies.

Studies refer to the following salient points:

It is the availability of junk food -- rather than advertising or pouring rights -- that is associated with weight gain.

In general, a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of schools with junk food is correlated with about a 1% higher body mass index (BMI) for the average student.

(JUNK FOOD in SCHOOLS WORSENS CHILDHOOD OBESITY. 2005)

However, research findings tend to combine both inactivity and lack of exercise and eating unsuitable types of food. Another study by Wallis (2004) emphasizes the view that the wrong foods are a major factor in the high rates of obesity among children

The nation's landscape & #8230; is littered with junk food masquerading as health food; candy and candy-like cereals featuring kids' favorite cartoon characters and toy-like packaging; schools that shamelessly hawk soft drinks and snack foods, and multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns to promote such unwholesome products. Schools, in particular "have become nutritional disaster areas; we've created environments that are hostile to physical activity

(Wallis, 2004)

2.3. Social prejudice as a central factor

Many theorists also point that psychological and psycho-social aspects play a vital role in the understanding and combating of obesity. Social prejudice and bias towards the overweight and obese individual is not referred to extensively in the literature but forms an increasingly important part of understanding the roots and effects of this problem.

Another aspect that is related to this subject is the way that stress can impact on the issue of obesity. Obesity and overeating may result from extreme stress and anxiety. Studies refer to experiments where rats subjected to stress indulge in binge-eating (Swartz, 2003). This finding suggests that anxiety can contribute to obesity in humans. (Swartz, 2003)

A further issue is the way that overweight and obese people are perceived in society. Being overweight is often construed as a negative reflection on the character of the individual; in other words, overweight people are often judged by others in terms of the way that they look and in relation to social stereotypes of the idealized human body. This can lead to low self-esteem and related psychological issues for the individual; which can in turn increase overeating and obesity. This unfair prejudice very rarely takes into account factors such as an individual genetic makeup as well as other causes of obesity.

Critics also note that social discrimination against obese individuals is not a new phenomenon in society. In modern Western society we can trace this prejudice back to early Christian thought where "gluttony" was considered one of the seven deadly sins (Spake). This has led to the view that," Most overweight adults have suffered ridicule, self-consciousness, or depression, particularly if they were obese as children or adolescents ( Spake) .

Another commentator, Hillel Schwartx, in his article Fat and Noise also explores this prejudice against obese people and how this impacts on issues such as recovery. He states that,

Fatness is positioned in American society not simply as a feature of physical appearance but as the core constituent of some human beings, who are identifiable through and through by their evident bulk and weight. Americans may in fact be trained from an early age to sense the approach of fat people so that they may keep their distance from something so horrible and dangerous

( Schwartx).

Worley ( 2003) also refers to the connotations that are associated with fatness and obesity. "Our society believes that thinness signals self-discipline and self-respect, whereas fatness signals self-contempt and lack of resolve" ( Worley 2003). These prejudices can be severe obstacles to dealing with this problem and there are a number of organizations that have become involved in fighting this unfair prejudice in society. For example, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) has reacted strongly against this form of prejudice in society and refers to facts such as the genetic causes of obesity ( Puhl and Brownell, 2001).

3. Conclusion

There are many different views about the causes and effects of obesity. The above discussion has been intended to show that some views are more dominant and that while a multidimensional understanding of the is valid, there are some causes that are more pertinent than others.

Further research into the subject is essential as recent findings indicate that obesity is strongly related to a number of comorbid health issues. For instance, childhood obesity can lead to serious and life -- threatening health problems later in life. These can range from heart disease to cancer.

Furthermore, the health problems related to obesity are not limited to physical illness only. As has been referred to above, obesity is also linked to mental health and psychological issues. The NICHM report cited above… [END OF PREVIEW]

Childhood Obesity and Technology Research Paper


Childhood Obesity and Nursing Considerations Research Paper


Causes of American Childhood Obesity Term Paper


Childhood Obesity: Problem and Solutions Health Professionals Essay


Problem of Child Obesity in Australia Debate Essay


View 172 other related papers  >>

Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Childhood Obesity.  (2009, April 4).  Retrieved October 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/childhood-obesity-view-been/38395

MLA Format

"Childhood Obesity."  4 April 2009.  Web.  16 October 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/childhood-obesity-view-been/38395>.

Chicago Format

"Childhood Obesity."  Essaytown.com.  April 4, 2009.  Accessed October 16, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/childhood-obesity-view-been/38395.