Obesity in Middle School Children in United States Essay

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Obesity in Middle School

Obesity in the adult population is at epidemic proportions. Without stringent efforts to reduce the numbers of children who are also being carried, away by this epidemic the number of adults will increase to a point where the cost of obesity can cripple the health system. The nature and magnitude of this problem requires that all stakeholders become actively involved in providing and supporting solutions. Parents, teachers, and health care providers can unite to provide a wall against the rising tide. The role of the students themselves should be given greater consideration because not only are they part of the problem they may be the solution. The context within which obesity occurs may provide fertile soil for new and innovative approaches to solving this problem.

Obesity in middle school in America

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America is slowly eating its way toward a disaster. The preoccupation with food and in particular fast foods and foods that are high in calories have contributed to the development of the most obese population in the world. Obesity appears to be a corresponding result of the increase wealth. While the problem with adults is difficult and challenging to call for dramatic and immediate changes is diets. Obesity amongst children is of even greater concern because of the immediate social, health, developmental problems associated with obese children. Additionally the long-term issues of having persons who are obese from childhood are fearful to consider. This assessment explores obesity in middle school America, providing a description of magnitude and scope of the challenge and culminating a discussion on the future effect of this trend.

Essay on Obesity in Middle School Children in United States Assignment

Obesity can be defined as having a "body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30" (Morrill & Chinn, 2004 p.353). This definition was developed in the last twenty-five years and provides an empirical assessment of the problem. It also does not require the consideration of other variables such as race, socioeconomic status and gender which may imperil other definition. In the general population of the United States, this condition has reached epidemic proportions where some researchers estimate that 30% of the population can be regarded as being obese ().

The problem in children while it is not proportionally as large may be of greater concern because of the debilitating effects of obesity on children. Approximately 9 million children in the U.S. are overweight (). What is of additional concern is that the rate of increase in obesity amongst children is chilling. For the years 1976 to 2000 the rate of obesity in middle school children increased from 4% to 15% (). This rapid increase in the number of children of middle school age being overweight is a disturbing trend. It should be noted that in the United States the term obese is never applied to children because of the psychological implications of that action. Consequently, where overweight is used it includes the aspect of obesity.

The magnitude of the problem becomes more compelling when other factors are added to the picture firstly; the sedentary lifestyle of many middle school children contributes directly to the problem. Television watching has been linked directly to children being overweight since it limits playtime (Kaiser family foundation, 2004). There is also an insidious element to the television watching. The presentation of advertisements that encourage the consumption high caloric food, junk food, and fast foods contribute to the problem by feeding the poor diet challenge.

This concern should be understood in the context of the school environment itself. While the home is a place where children are assailed by advertisers attempting to make money off children's weaknesses, they are also not safe at school. Almost 2000 middle schools are connected to Channel One, which carries two minutes of commercials. Within that period, 70% of the commercials shown were for foods laced with high calories and low nutritional value (Morrill, & Chinn, 2004 p. 357). Thus, children are not safe even in the school environment. What is possibly worse is, because the commercials are shown in a school environment they take on the veneer of legitimacy, and may even be understood as beneficial by children. This is coupled with the presence within the schools of vending machines. Many of these machines sell sodas and high sugar snack foods (CDC fact sheet). This type of approach is counterproductive for the development of a healthy middle school and only serves to exacerbate the problem making it almost intractable.

Dealing with the problem of obesity in the middle school is a definitely a challenging proposition. As Lindsay, Sussner, Kim & Gortmaker (2006) point out parents have a critical role to play in helping children create and maintain eating habits that are healthy. This should be combined with the encouragement to become involved in physical activities that will naturally burn up calories. The researchers were at pains to note that any attempt to address childhood obesity will require the active involvement of parents at multiple levels. By examining the existing research in the area, the authors were deliberate in making a call for more evaluations of school-based obesity prevention programs in particular those that target parents.

The problem can also be differentiated by gender as girls and boys deal with obesity differently. This can be understood when considering the media pressure on women to be thin and to look an idealized way (Saguy, Gruys, &Gong 2010 p.588). Crosnoe (2007) using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health determined that there was a social psychological gendered link between obesity and education. Girls who were obese were likely to enter college and had higher rates of self-medication and academic disengagement. These issues did not test as significant for boys of the same age.

Story, Nanney, & Schwartz (2009) in an overview of the research on the relationship of schools and obesity in children identified three clear trends. The first is that competitive foods are available at schools and these foods are largely high caloric foods. Secondly, physical activity can be included in the school's curriculum but it requires leadership by administrators to enact this policy. Thirdly, in concert with previous researchers they have determined that there is a need for more programs that evaluate the effectiveness of school-based BMI programs. The fourth finding was that the strongest school districts have the best programs. These findings point to policy as a major contributor to the implementation and success of any school-based programs. The policy must be managed and rigorously manned by competent administrators but without such an approach, it is difficult for school-based programs to work effectively.

Not only is the school policy and administration important in tackling the problem of obesity. The school context may play an equally critical role in understanding the problem (Crosnoe & Muller 2004). The relationship between the risk of obesity and achievement was explored and the researcher determined that in schools where there were high rates of romantic activity and lower average body size persons who were obese were more likely to be stigmatized and thus have problems with academic achievement. While the research is ongoing, it identifies a salient component of the problem that may go unnoticed, the context at school within which the students exist.

It therefore becomes apparent that because of the growing trend of this problem, the clear link to familial variables, and the moderate effect of the school context and administrative policies, future health services will need to consider a multifaceted approach to this particular problem. Health services will have to be constructed with concerns for the parents, the students, and the teachers. This is multileveled but it will also be multifaceted (Anderson & Butcher, 2006, p.19). It is important to understand that health services will also be in constant conflict with advertisers and marketers who are intent on making money at the expense of the health of children.

Additionally, the problem will not be resolved or reduced with a single effort it will require sustained and coordinated effort between the many levels. The schools will need to remove unhealthy foods from the facility and the menus of the schools. There should be some kind of exercise program while not mandatory it should be interesting and exciting enough to attract and maintain the participation of the student population. These elements will require the continuous support of parents as they seek to reduce the amount of time children spend in front of the television and ensure that they are eating healthier. What is really on the cards here is cultural change, since it involves both diet and habits, within the home and the schools system. Culture change while it is not impossible to achieve will be difficult, because of the financial cost to the system and to the promoters of snack foods and high calorie foods will be resisted.

A strategy that could be used by a nurse practitioner (NP) to influence the problem is that of dealing with the context of the schools. The context is really the culture of the school… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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