- Family and Parenting
Obesity within our Nations Children
Children suffer everyday from obesity. Obesity is a disease that is considered a chronic illness that cannot be solved by short-term action but must be dealt with by making a lifelong commitment to maintaining a healthier weight. Obesity can start at any age and has become a problem for many children in families around the US. It starts with education and action, but these two solutions alone are still not enough to solve every case of obesity that runs so rampant in our children today. There are many factors and cases outside of the obvious that play pivotal roles in the development of childhood obesity.
Obesity starts when the body consumes more calories than it burns during a person's daily activity. The remaining calories that are not burned by the end of the day are stored in the body and converted into fat cells. Fat is necessary for the body to function and stay healthy. It provides the body with a cushion around the vital organs to protect them from shock impacts such as running and blows to the body. It also acts as insulation to keep the body at a warm equilibrium. Fat is also used in the body as stored energy and is the first source of fuel to be consumed when the body has no more viable sources in the digestive system to draw from. A person will start to gain weight when the fat cells in the body start to accumulate and greatly exceed the recommended amount that a person should be storing. This storage of fat cells can quickly develop into obesity.
The body mass index of a person is the best way to identify whether someone is obese or just big. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Body Mass Index (or BMI) is the measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute categorizes ones BMI into four categories: underweight (a BMI less than 18.5%) normal weight (a BMI between 18.5% and 24.9%) overweight (a BMI between 25% and 29.9%) and obese (a BMI greater than 30%). Many children who are obese have a body fat percentage greater than 30%. This means that 30% of their total weight comes from fat stored in the body.
Obesity is such a problem because of the many medical problems that it can develop. According to a study done by Asnawi Abdullah the risk of type 2 diabetes for men was 1·13 (95%) and for women was 1·12 (95%) per additional 2-year increase in the duration of obesity. She concluded her study saying, “The duration of obesity is a relevant risk factor for type 2 diabetes, independent of the degree of BMI.” Meaning that regardless of the amount of exercise or diet control that is maintained, the risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes remains constant if our BMI is still found to be greater than 30%.
Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that is frequently developed from obesity. The fat cells cannot process the overwhelming amount of nutrients supplied by the eater and thus rejects the nutrients back into the bloodstream where they are cycled through the bodies main organs. This causes a suppression on the production of insulin from the pancreas and is how obesity starts the development of diabetes. Obesity then can cause kidney failure from over filtration, and pancreatic arrest from over exertion. Diabetes also leads to other medical problems such as heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
These are many of the medical issues that can be caused due to obesity, but many other issues can arise in the life of a person who is overweight. Psychological stress is also common caused by peers and can even be self inflicted which leads to depression. A lot of money also goes into maintaining and sustaining such a diet which can cause financial crisis for many families who struggle to make ends meet.
For many the solution seems simple: eat less or at least healthier and you will lose weight. According to a 2008 census posted by the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention Program they stated, “Among non-Hispanic white children and adolescents, the prevalence of obesity increases as income decreases…” A common misconception among the general population. Many people believe that it is the overindulgence of food provided by the childrens parents that provoke the habit of overeating. In the studies provided by the CDC we see that the lower the income the more prevalent obesity became within children. How can this be? If you have little money to buy food, how is it possible to maintain a diet that can sustain your obesity?
In an article published by The Washington Post, journalist Eli Saslow found a town with peculiar circumstances. In the town of McAllen, Texas the residents are living well below the poverty line, yet the majority of its inhabitants are obese. Finding that most of the food provided to families in the area come from food stamps, it made it easy for these family to purchase the food they want. Unfortunately the food stores found in the south of Texas are dollar stores that sell convenience goods. In area such as McAllen Texas residents receive food stamps from the government to help provide for their family, but the only available local they can buy food from is the local convenient store which does not provide healthier alternatives for food. According to Christina A. Samuels According to the study, “about one in eight children ages 2 to 5 is obese… The findings, out this month, came from weight and height data collected between 2008 and 2011 from about 11.6 million low-income children ages 2 to 5 who live in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories.”
Due to a continuation of poor eating habits most of the parents and children are also starting to develop type 2 diabetes. In this article Eli Saslow explains that many people don’t have cars and that the closest market available to them that sells fresh produce is 7 miles outside of this residency. The situation for many of these residents is that making healthier food choices for their diet is necessary in order to live, but with cars inaccessible to transport them or their goods the option to go to the market is scarcely available.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for developing and executing federal government policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food. One of the ways the USDA is trying to change these rural areas is by sending nutrition educators to low-income families to teach them better eating alternatives in order to stay healthy. They are provided with brochures and some food to give to these families to try to help them see for themselves the benefits of healthier eating. The educator's job is to go from house to house, family to family, describing the need for a healthy diet and give healthy food alternatives. This is a great way to start a change in these areas, but is not enough.
We find that poor eating habits are sustained through government assistance, and that in poor rural areas such as McAllen Texas, it is difficult to change their situation even if directed with the right education. With healthier foods 7 miles away, and no transportation the next alternative is to push for healthy activity. Exercise is a great way to control and manipulate ones weight. According to Dr. Claude Bouchard, a member of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, he states “the obese benefits also from a regular exercise regimen in terms of improved insulin sensitivity, lipid and lipoprotein profile, and blood pressure, as well as reduced risk of death. Regular exercise, such as walking, is a healthy course of action for the overweight or the obese patients.”
As I stated before that education is a great first step in helping fight the problem of obesity. It is hard to fight against an enemy you know nothing about. For example, lets say that every time you take a step a pain in the sole of your foot occurs. In an attempt to ease the pain you soak it in cold water. Still the pain remains the very next time you take a step. If you don't know what is causing the pain how can you stop it. Same is with obesity, people need to understand what causes obesity and how they can prevent it from happening to them. The volunteers who walk from neighborhood to neighborhood are a great start to helping the people understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it is not enough.
The media is a great tool for helping people be active and make a difference. Dedicating a day or even a week to the observance of your body weight can greatly change the mood and perception of exercise in a community. First lady Michelle Obama, an active supporter in the fight against childhood obesity said, "We as parents are our children's first and best role models, and this is particularly true when it comes to their health. ...We can't lie around on the couch eating French fries and candy bars and expect our kids to eat carrots and run around the block." The community can gather together on a Saturday at the local educational institution for games and instruction on how to have fun while losing weight. During this week daily eating goals can be set to help reach an overall weekly goal. On the following Saturday the long awaited results will be uncovered and the winner of the most weight lost could be sponsored on the news to help motivate local efforts. One simple idea can cause a great change in the heart of the people, they just need to see that anyone can make the difference.
The next step mentioned is action. People have to take what they know and put it into action. I asked professor Joe Klein, a physical educator at Yuba City Community College, How can exercise help increase one’s health? He responded, “Oh exercise is the only way to maintaining a good physique. The vigors movements help to regulate blood pressure, strengthen the muscles and can even increase brain activity.” Exercise doesn’t have to be done at a gym or with fancy equipment. You can go for a walk or a run just about anywhere. You can even just work out by making yourself sit down and stand up 20 times in a row if that's a start. Klein ended our conversation with, “There’s no such thing as an ineffective workout so long as you are pushing your body to work. That’s why its called a workout!”
The president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund said this about fighting childhood obesity, “Now that we are making gains, we have to home in on what works. We need creative solutions and public-private partnerships that combine access and affordability with education. But we must recognize that with issues this complex, there is no magic bullet.” We need to make an active effort in our legislation to help provide families under constraining circumstances with the necessary amenities to change their lives. In my neighborhood an ice cream man drives his truck every day up and down my block selling popsicles and frozen goodies. Kids flock to the truck with smiles on their faces yelling as they await their long desired treat. A delivery system that brings what the kids want to them. We can take the concept of an ice cream truck man, and change it into the fresh foods freighter. The freighter or truck would make weekly visits to rural areas like McAllen, Texas selling fresh produce such as carrots, apples, lettuce, and any other healthier alternative not readily available in the area. This would help provide more jobs for low-income workers, and help provide a service to developing towns and areas. The fresh produce could be contracted out and would help stimulate the economy and flowing trade of goods and services. The health trucks would also be able to accept food stamps and the government would easily be able to administer and regulate the size and types of food that would be sold in the truck. The truck could even sell prepackaged lunches that are tasty yet a healthier alternative to the processed goods bought at the local convenient stores. It would also help those families who do not have transportation by bringing the food to them, instead of bringing them to the food.
These are a few solutions that we can put into action to help improve the existing conditions in the U.S. that spawn obesity. Starting with education and action, we can set up small truck routes to help low-income areas receive nutritious foods for reasonable prices. Also with the help of the media and local efforts starting a nation wide awareness week can stir up support from all corners of the world. The support of local communities and efforts spread across the nation can help effectively combat the growing problem of childhood obesity. We can make a change if we have the motivation and confidence to do so.