The United States has always been the world leader in so many areas, economy, technology, health and medicine yet for some reason we can’t get our obesity problem under control. It isn’t just adults that are feeling the extra pounds children are at risk even more. The number of overweight children 6-11 years of age has doubled in the past 20 years. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) If we continue at this pace cutting recess at schools cutting gym at schools these numbers will continue to worsen.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 6 states out of 50 got an A for their legislative and public-policy work to control and prevent obesity in children. Those states were California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee. With all of the resources afforded to the East Coast I was embarrassed to find out that New Jersey came in 39th.
We live in a society of “I want it now,” children who get what they want when they want just so their parents don’t have to hear them cry. This leads to trips to McDonald’s, Burger King, and ice cream stops. Because parents are so busy and are working more than an 8 ½ hour day they stop for fast food to feed their hungry family. While I understand the busy schedules I do not understand allowing your child to be overweight. Schools need to set an example by only providing nutritious food to children for lunches and breakfasts. What schools consider a vegetable, Tater Tots, is embarrassing to say the least. Items like pizza, tacos, and milkshakes are always on the menu with little to no alternative choices. Vending machines in schools are filled with junk food and sugary drinks instead of health bars, juices and bottled water. When we replace these machines it can start the process of weaning children off of sweets. Seven states currently require BMI or Body Mass Index report cards, informing parents of a child’s risk of becoming obese. Those states are Arkansas, California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. Arkansas was the first state in 2003 to require BMI report cards. Although this was put into place obesity in children has not dropped but has leveled off which researchers see as a positive sign.
Obesity in children does not just affect the child’s psychological state by being teased and made fun of but also affects their health and their future. Children who are obese are more likely to be in and out of the doctor with various problems can have Heart Disease or Type 2 Diabetes at a very young age. Researchers have found that obese children tend to have at least one additional risk factor for heart problems later in their lives such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Overweight children are also at a greater risk for joint problems, poor self-esteem, and sleep apnea. Putting all these together they can shorten life spans, diminish quality of life and put heavy burden on the public health system.
Losing weight and being healthy must start at home and parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s health. I will be the first to admit that when I see a family of all large people I become angry because those parents are setting a bad example for their children. As I’ve said in previous articles parents have decided that they no longer need to take responsibility for their children or their actions and instead blame the companies like McDonalds and Burger King for making their children fat. Parents need to stand up and set ground rules for eating habits before it’s too late.
Being a part of extracurricular activities such as sports or dance can significantly reduce a child’s risk for Obesity and other diseases. Teaching children at a young age can help them in their future to make better food choices and will pass that along to their children when they become parents. Kenneth Stanton, assistant professor of finance at the Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore and chair of the Obesity Initiative, thinks there are parallels between the battle against obesity and the battle against smoking. If you look at how long it took states to ban smoking in public areas to how long it’s taken them to start banning trans fat you can see the comparison. Big business is making money off of people getting fat and they’re going to use all resources to ensure that remains the same even if it means risking the health of children. McDonald’s recently announced it would be phasing out the use of trans fat in it’s food and says it’s doing it to help with the obesity issue that plagues our nation.
The fight against obesity must start from a very young age if it’s taught to the children they will learn how to apply it in their everyday activities. Allowing children to participate in activities rather than sitting in front of a television or computer can start the process. In a world where technology has taken over we forget the simple things like riding a bike or playing on swings outside in the beautiful weather. People have caught on to this idea and have created tiny gyms as their called for youngsters to go and get their exercise in even when it’s cold outside. Gymboree began activities for children back in 1976 and has been the most popular music and activity place for mothers and their children.
I think once we begin to concentrate on what matters in our lives such as our children, their health and our health we can begin to see a brighter more positive future. The states need to get involved and take a more proactive approach to stopping obesity at the core or root of the problem. It must begin at home and parents must be held responsible for their children and their children’s health. Only then can we stop the cycle and add years on to people’s lives. More time on earth means more time to enjoy with your family.