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The Epidemic Of Childhood Obesity And The Responsibility Of Parents In Their Child’s Health

Experts are expressing concerns about rising childhood obesity rates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These rates have been increasing steadily for the past few decades and seem to show no signs of stopping. A recent article by U.S. News states that more than one in five children in America are obese – a new record. It further expressed concerns about how the pandemic has restricted diet and physical activities due to social distancing and lockdown measures. In addition, many experts in the article feel that American society has not taken the health epidemic seriously and that this is partly due to how businesses greatly profit off overweight consumers. It is easy to see how there is much more money behind companies supporting the issue rather than preventing it. This article aims to explore the various reasons behind the epidemic and some practical solutions that families can take to improve their child’s health and well-being.


Childhood obesity has numerous causes and consequences. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care delved into the issue in a 2015 article. Children suffering from obesity are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Comorbid conditions, including orthopedic, pulmonary, renal, neurological, metabolic, and hepatic disorders, are also associated with obesity. These children are additionally at an increased risk for a lower overall quality of life and poor academic performance.


The most common cause of childhood obesity is a poor diet along with a sedentary lifestyle, though genetics can also play a role in some cases. Other factors that can contribute to the issue include increased portion sizes, the consumption of sugary beverages, family influence, and environmental factors like the increased use of electronic media. Aside from the medical consequences of obesity, sufferers can also experience socio-emotional effects. Children can be stigmatized and bullied for their weight by others and experience difficulties in participating in competitive sports or other physical activities.


Obesity can have staggering psychological consequences on young children as well. Research conducted by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years back in 2016 found that children as young as three years old can develop body image issues, with rates increasing as the child gets older. Many early-year practitioners believe that parents and peer groups have the most significant influence on these anxieties, and some say the media is also playing a prominent role. Parents are advised to be mindful of the things they say around their children and to avoid negatively talking about their bodies. Doing so can have a negative influence on their child’s body image. Promoting positive body images and healthy lifestyles can influence a child’s body confidence for the better.


Is it possible for people adequately address childhood obesity when the condition is even more prevalent among adults? Overweight adults unwilling to pursue a healthier lifestyle may pass the burden on to their children. The climbing childhood obesity rates are simply a reflection of the epidemic among adults. Therefore, it is much more challenging to address health issues in children if the same health issues in adults are being pushed aside or ignored. Parents must look after their health and diet choices to see the same improvements in their children. Moreover, children whose parents refuse to engage in healthier lifestyles will have a more difficult road ahead and will be forced to find other resources that can assist them with their obesity. 


At the same time, it is essential to be aware of the “stigma by association” parents face when their child is overweight. A recent study published by the “Child Obes” journal examined the negative stigma that mothers face when their child is struggling with their weight. Mothers interviewed for the study claimed they experienced negative stigma for their child’s weight from family members, physicians, and other adults. Most of those mothers also feel that they are at least partially to blame for their child’s weight since they think it is their responsibility to establish routines for their child and to break cycles. Other external factors also played roles in their children’s weight, such as depression, difficulty controlling teenage eating behaviors, and the unhealthy foods served at school. The comments made towards these mothers were found to be upsetting to them in most cases, yet they also commonly agreed with the blame they received.


It is easy to underestimate how challenging it can be to establish healthy eating habits in a family atmosphere when children are accustomed to sugary, processed foods. These products are created to be addictive to sell as many as possible, and there is an overabundance of them available at low prices in grocery stores worldwide. The cheap costs of these foods make them attractive to lower-income consumers. Additionally, making the switch to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can lead to a lot of protest from the child, who does not understand how their unhealthy eating habits are impacting their lives. Families often need outside intervention and guidance to help break their persistent habits.


According to a 2019 article published by the American Psychological Association, family-based behavioral treatment is the best way to address childhood obesity. These interventions would focus on teaching the parents skills like goal setting, problem-solving, monitoring children’s behaviors, and modeling positive parental behaviors, which would incorporate the whole family into a healthier lifestyle of healthy eating and increased physical activity. These programs proved effective and helped with significant weight loss seen in patients. The biggest obstacle for many of these families pursuing these treatment programs is that most forms of insurance do not cover the costs of pediatric obesity programs. Experts find ways to combat this by offering this form of treatment in primary care offices. However, a change in healthcare policy could be the key to providing high-quality, effective treatment for any family that wants assistance changing their lifestyle.


It is still unclear as to whether the obesity crisis will ever be taken seriously or if it will continue to be pushed aside. The consequence of ignoring it is unfairly affecting children, who adopt the same habits that their parents and peers establish. The COVID-19 pandemic may have worsened matters for people grappling with obesity, and families struggle to receive beneficial treatment due to current healthcare policy. Perhaps bringing more awareness towards the suffering many children face from an unhealthy lifestyle is the push that everyone needs in order to to start taking this health crisis seriously, or we may face far more dire consequences in the years to come.

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Tags: #children #childhoodobesity #healthandwellness


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