Childhood Obesity: Neglectful Parenting or Society’s Fault Essay

Childhood Obesity: Neglectful Parenting or Society’s fault Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat (CDC. gov. ). Two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese (CDCP). We are all aware of the raging “Obesity epidemic” that has overcome this country. But, are we fully grasping the impact it has on not only us, but on our on our nation as a whole? The quality of life for this current generation and future generations is on the downfall.

Not only is it killing our economy, but imagine it at a personal stand point. Obesity pegs a colossal price on overweight individuals and children. It leads to serious chronic health conditions, sometimes even disability and psychological suffering; now look at it from an obese child’s view point, society thrusts certain stereotypes and puts so much emotional strain on appearances, that in this day and age it’s hard to feel accepted. The pain is only magnified tenfold on an obese child. Let’s ask ourselves, why do children have to go through this pain and suffering?

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Also, why is it increasing? Why is it that child obesity has increased from seven percent in 1980 to nearly twenty percent in 2008 (CDC). Why is it today that seventeen percent of all kids and teens are obese (CDC)? That is triple the rate of one generation ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why is obesity now costing us an astounding $190 billion price tag to the annual national healthcare (Ungar) (Forbes)? So, the real question is why is obesity skyrocketing and why are children getting bigger? Is it society’s fault or is it neglectful parenting?

Well, I have three reasons that contribute to why it’s such a rampaging issue. It’s due to the effects of today’s media, culture and lifestyle, and the lack of health education. All of this ties into and correlates the demographics of states as well. This could all change if we concur that this is a dire issue that needs our immediate attention and if we converge to work collectively. If our government enacts certain programs and regulations and if we, as a community and a whole, put more of an emphasis on education on how to live a healthy lifestyle, then it will immensely help reduce the rate of obesity in children and adults.

Obesity’s causes are well known: poor eating choices and insufficient exercise. A major issue that needs to be addressed more clearly is how do we truly tell if someone is obese or if they are just overweight? According to the medical dictionary, over heaviness is being overweight, but when that weight is carried in excess that is obesity (Difference Between. net). However, most of the time, we confuse the difference between being overweight and obese. Above all, there is a fine difference between being overweight and obesity.

The term “overweight” simply means being over a weight that is set for your height and bone structure (Houghton). Calculating a person’s BMI (body mass index) determines if someone is overweight or obese. It is a commonly used diagnostic tool to classify people as underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese based on height and weight (Hall). Body mass index (BMI) is defined as the individual’s body mass divided by the square of his or her height. It doesn’t actually measure the percent of body fat, but allows determining a simple numeric measure of one’s body size.

On the other hand, it can be somewhat inaccurate due to the weight of one’s muscle structure versus their height, because it can’t tell the difference between muscle and fat. So, for individual results it poses certain issues, but is good for assessing population health risk. That is something that most people don’t know due to the lack of accurate education the public has about health. If they, our government, take the time to educate and implement the “National Physical Activity Plan”, then it’s going to help put more of an emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle.

This plan consists of programs and initiatives. This includes a grassroots advocacy effort to make it a community effort; a public education program; a national resource center; a policy development and research center; and dissemination of best practices (Healthy Americans. org). This could do wonders on a local level. Instead of targeting large areas and just barely touching the surface, this insists that communities and regional areas join together as a joint effort then it will ensure success. Subsequently, one way to ensure success is if we target children at an early age and target schools.

In addition to people being misinformed about how calculating your BMI really works, most people lack general knowledge on the immediate health effects of being obese as a child. We have all heard the saying “Oh, that’s just baby fat”, or “They will grow out of it”. Well that accumulation of body fat actually causes the child to have some major health threats. Obese youths are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, seventy percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CDC).

In addition to their risks being increased for serious health problems, children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem (CDC). Consequently, that “baby fat’, is posing major health issues and is causing unneeded psychological distress. It also induces another string of issues. An obese teenager has over a seventy percent greater risk of becoming an obese adult (CDC). With this in mind, the long term results only worsen.

Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults (CDC). Those social and psychological problems contribute to a lack of self-worth and poor self-esteem. Anxiety and depression are also common to develop (THD). That, in turn, leads to mental and emotional issues. That lack of self-esteem can continue on to have many effects throughout a person’s life.

Especially since children are just beginning to nurture and develop self-concept, childhood is a critical time in which self-esteem should be nurtured (Mclaughlin). These effects can be prevented if parents take part in influencing their children’s environment by limiting certain media exposures and by ensuring balanced diets. So where do the issues and poor lifestyle habits develop? Do they develop at home, school, or from the media? Well, it’s not like an infant, toddler or young child are the ones doing the cooking and shopping.

If we look at the psychology aspect, then we know that children have impressionable minds and try to emulate parents. Today’s media, such as TV commercials, play a huge role in influencing children’s food choices as well. In the late 70’s researchers estimated that children watched over 20,000 commercials, with that number only to increase over the next decades (Kaiser Family Foundation). One study found that even from age three, the amount of television watched significantly affected their caloric intake (Taras, Patterson, and Nader).

Along with media exposure, observing their parents eating habits also increases their caloric intake. Debra Haire-Joshu, Ph. D. states that after testing a program at Saint Louis University School of Public Health, she concludes, “When parents eat more fruits and vegetables, so do their children. When parents eat and give their children high fat snacks or soft drinks, children learn these eating patterns instead” (Redorbit. com). Likewise, even though children are not doing the grocery shopping and personally picking out certain foods, they do play a major role in what the house hold buys.

The New York Times has noted that, “the courtship of children is no surprise, since increasingly that is where the money is”, and added that marketing executives anticipate that children under 12 will spend 35 billion of their own money, and influence 200 billion in house hold spending in 2004 (The Role of Media in Childhood Obesity pg. 5). Even so, the type of foods a house hold buy is not enough. The reason for this is because a child can eat healthy all day at home, but eat junk food at school. A solution for this is to implement the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”.

TFAH and RWJF recommend that the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issue a final rule regarding school meal regulations and issue strong standards for so-called “competitive” food and beverages. This could greatly cut down the consumption of unhealthy food options in schools. It’s insane to contemplate, that even in schools, children are bombarded with incentives to spend money on junk food. In addition with healthy eating choices in schools, it’s not going to make much of a difference if the importance of portion sizes isn’t stressed.

Americans have a distorted image of portioning their food. Everything has to be “supersized” or get as much “bang for your buck”. That is why, food portions in America’s restaurants have doubled or tripled over the last 20 years (National Heart lung and Blood Institute). Therefore, that leads me to the conclusion of if Americans are so concerned about saving money and getting as much food for as cheap as possible, then why are they willing to spend so much on healthcare? Health care costs nearly doubled between 1999 and 2009, which left the average 2009 family with only $95 more per month han in 1999. If costs had matched the consumer price index’s rise, the average family would have an additional $450 per month (How does Health care affect the American family pg. 1). If the average family is willing to spend that much on something that could be PREVENTED due to an improper diet and a lack of physical movement, than it just shows the lack of health education that continues to prevail. If we implement the “Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund” then we are putting a spotlight on obesity prevention.

Prevention is something that we need to exert full force and really focus on for the sake of future generations. TFAH (Trust for Americas Health) and RWJF (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) recommend that the fund not be cut, and that a significant portion be used for obesity prevention, and that it not be used to offset or justify cuts to other Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programs (Healthy Americans. org). This can only be worthwhile if we target areas and states where obesity is the most prevalent. Correspondingly, our demographics and states current education status play a major role.

Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Four years ago, only one state was above 30 percent (Healthy Americans. org). Since 1995, when data was available for every state, obesity rates have doubled in seven states and increased by at least 90 percent in 10 others. Obesity rates have grown fastest in Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee, and slowest in Washington, D. C. , Colorado, and Connecticut. Nine of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South (USA Today).

The obesity epidemic continues to be most dramatic in the South, which includes nine of the 10 states with the highest adult obesity rates. States in the Northeast and West tend to have lower rates (Healthy Americans. org). What is most interesting about this is the correlation between the demographics of the more obese states compared to states who are less obese. There is a definite trend that is quite prominent. In recently released rankings of how states’ primary education systems, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey top the list.

Mississippi trails as the worst in the country, following West Virginia and Louisiana (Huffington Post). When you compare the Southern states educational systems to the obesity rates, you will find that the southern states are not only lacking in educational ranking, but are more obese. On the contrary, it’s not just the southern states who pose that issue. It also goes on an individual level; about 33% of adults who did not graduate from high school are obese compared with 21. 5% of those who graduated from college or technical college (USA Today).

Income and education also is parallel with the rate of obesity. Nearly 34% of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese, compared with 24. 6% of those who earn more than $50,000 a year (USA Today). Even though that is the case, it’s starting to change now. According to one recent nationally representative sample, obesity prevalence was higher in lower income and education groups, but the rate of increase in obesity over two decades was faster for higher income and education groups (Singh et al. , 2011) (Food and Research Center).

This is the perfect example on how obesity is on the rise to those who can afford to eat healthier. Furthermore, to help those in need, if we restore cuts to vital programs then it could tremendously improve the quality of life for those in need of assistance. TFAH and RWJF recommend that the $833 million in cuts made in the fiscal year 2011 should be restored and that those programs are to improve nutrition in child care settings and nutrition assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children be fully funded and carried out (Healthy Americans. rg). After all, you are a product of your environment and if change in nutrition isn’t changed then it will continue on an infinite cycle and the issue will never be resolved. Therefore, if we restore those $833 million cuts to improve nutrition care then that could do wonders in educating children and families on how to have a correct diet. In addition to demographics and the current state of education in the states, it’s interesting to compare the obesity prevalence in different ethnicities.

In most of the states examined, blacks had the highest prevalence (number of existing cases in a defined group of people during a specific time period) of obesity, followed by Hispanics, and then whites (CDC). Reasons why: First, racial and ethnic groups differ in behaviors that contribute to weight gain. A second explanation may be looking at the differences in individual attitudes and cultural norms related to body weight. A third explanation may be differences in access to affordable, healthful foods and safe locations to be physically active; this limited access may negatively impact diet and physical activity levels (CDC).

This is still true for child obesity and with these attributes practiced, room for change is sparse. That is why it’s so important for us to unite together and work together as a community. With all things considered without doubt, childhood obesity has become a staggering, and rampant issue that if not stopped then at least alleviated. Education is very important and especially when it comes to obesity and our healthcare crisis. We put ourselves in this rut by lacking health knowledge and having ignorance of the importance of this issue.

Now is the time to educate, reevaluate, and make the necessary changes needed to combat childhood obesity. If we join together as a community and offer positive support then it lays down the foundation for change and improvement. If we pair that with “National Physical Activity Plan”, “Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund”, “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” and restore the $833 million dollars in cuts to vital child care and nutrition programs then child obesity will not be a raging “epidemic” anymore.

It cannot continue on like this much longer and if we value our time and work with a rigid focus, then I know this issue can be resolved one day and future generations can bask in a life full of health, longer life expectancies, less medical debt and happiness.


1. Childhood Obesity Facts. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. June 7 2012. Web. Oct. 25 2012. 2. F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011. Healthy Americans. org. July 2011. Web. Oct. 25 2012. 3. Hall, Justin. Why is BMI Inaccurate? Livestrong. om. June 2 2010. Web. Nov. 26 2012. 4. Houghton, Kristen. The Big Difference between Overweight and Obesity. Huffington Post. com. Nov. 10 2010. Web. Nov 26 2012. 5. McLaughlin, August. Psychological Effects of Obesity on Children. Livestrong. com. Mar. 23 2010. Web. Oct 25 2012. 6. Larger Portion Sizes Contribute to U. S. Obesity Problem. National heart lung and blood institute. May 8 2012. Web. Nov. 26 2012. 7. Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD, U. S.

Department of Health and Human Services; 2010. Oct. 25 2012. 8. Parents Affect Child’s Eating Habit. Red Orbit. com. Aug 13 2008. Web. Nov. 26 2012. 9. Relationship between Poverty and Overweight or Obesity. Food Research and Action Center. 2010. Web. Oct 25 2012. 10. Rosenfeld, Steven. One in 5 Kids Is Obese, Yet Congress Is More Concerned With Protecting Profits Than Kids’ Health. Alter Net. org. May 11 2012. Web. Oct 25 2012 11. Ungar, Rick. Obesity Now Costs Americans More In HealthCare Spending Than Smoking. April 30 2012. Web. Nov. 26 2012.


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