America’s Growing Problem: Childhood Obesity
Have you ever been around a child and said or done something you thought was nothing but later see them doing or saying the exact same thing? If so you are witnessing the “Monkey see, Monkey do” effect. We see most young children do this at some point in their life. This effect can either be a really good thing or a really bad thing, depending on the action or words being repeated. Some things that children pick up on at a young age can stick with them into their adolescent years or even into adulthood. They even form lifelong habits, and when we are talking about eating and exercise habit, this can have lasting health consequences. In a country where obesity rates are the highest among middle age adults (ages 40-59), and second highest being children and teens, we need to address the issue now of children picking up on the poor eating habits of their parents.
Obesity is the most prevalent nutritional disorder among children and adolescents in the United States. Approximately 21-24% of American children and adolescents are overweight, and another 16-18% is obese. Children with overweight parents are more likely to become overweight themselves, thus leading to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other major illnesses. Childhood obesity starts with parents demonstrating the poor health, fitness, and nutritional standards. Parents need to be better examples to their young children by taking care of their own bodies and demonstrating healthy lifestyles. Research scientist Susan H. Babey said, “good dietary habits start at home.” Children do what their parents do, but more importantly, they eat what their parents eat. This has lead millions of U.S. children and adolescents to become overweight to the point where it is life threatening. California health interview survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest health survey, found that teens whose parents drink soda every day are nearly 40% more likely to drink soda every day themselves than teens with parents who don’t drink soda. To demonstrate this concept even further CHIS has also done a study showing teens whose parents eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily are 16 percent more likely to do the same than teens with parents who don’t eat five servings a day. Nutrition specialists and dietitians wouldn’t recommend daily intakes or guidelines if they didn’t believe them to be true and helpful to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We as Americans need to understand the effects of bad eating habits and start eating right for the sake of our own lives as well as the lives of our children.
Most parents are very protective of the safety of their children (as they should be). Parents with children and adolescents living in inner-city neighborhoods have less space for physical activity due to the high number of busy streets and threats of violence. Living in such neighborhoods leave parents with no choice but to keep their children inside. Parents feel computers, video games, and television, offer sedentary entertainment. However, this so-called sedentary entertainment could potentially be harming their children just as much going outside and playing in the busy streets. The bad eating habits on top of physical inactivity has lead to an estimated one in three (30% boys and 40% girls) children or adolescents to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes since 2000. Type 2 diabetes mellitus has accounted for 8% to 45% of pediatric cases of diabetes according to case reports published in the 1990s, compared with less than 4% before 1990.
Many people believe that fast food restaurants are to blame for the growing rate of childhood obesity in America. Their argument is because of the way they advertise and appeal to young children. Yes, fast food chains have had a great impact on the rise in childhood obesity, but they are not completely to blame. Who pays for the Happy Meals and Big Macs these young children are consuming several times a week? The answer is clear, PARENTS. Parents are spending more and more time at work, leaving them little to no time to make a nutritious dinner for their family. Instead, they stop at McDonald's on their way home and pick up a few cheap hamburgers for dinner. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that parents are busy working to pay the bills and provide a good life for their kids, but in the meantime, they are neglecting some crucial life changing aspects of life for their children, as well as themselves.
My proposal for the next president is to work with Congress to create classes/programs for parents and their children to go and learn how to maintain healthy lifestyles. These classes would provide parents with the support they need to make healthy and nutritious meals for their family, and ways that they can take care of themselves. It will provide children living in cities with high crime rate a safe place to play sports and be physically active, so they aren't stuck inside playing video games. These classes would not only provide helpful information and physical activity for parents and children, but it would allow for parents and children to spend quality time working together to create a healthy life for each other.
In conclusion, parents, overweight or not, need to demonstrate healthy eating behaviors as well as exercise behaviors. By demonstrating these behaviors it decreases the risk of children becoming overweight substantially, along with the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, cancer, asthma and other pulmonary diseases, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, stroke, and other chronic illnesses. This means parents need to take as much time out of their busy schedule as possible to prepare nutritious meals for their family and limit the amount of food consumed at fast food restaurants. With the help of the next president and Congress, we can create classes/programs to get parents and children on the right track for the sake of their health and happiness. If parents and their children take the time to help each other out, I am sure we will see a big change in the obesity rates in America.