Saturday, February 24, 2007

Childhood Obesity: What Can Be Done to Fight the Battle?

According to the American Obesity Association in 2005, 30% of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 15% are obese. Because of these disconcerting statistics, there are many questions as to why this trend is occurring and what parents can do to prevent childhood obesity from continuing. It appears that parents are either not aware of the methods available to stop child obesity or are choosing to ignore these various approaches. In this post I have commented on two blogs regarding the problem of obesity in children, and what has been believed to be some issues linked to the continually-high statistic rates. The first blog post is a Weight Loss Blog by the Wellspring Family Camp, a weight loss camp for families pictured below, in which it describes how children who watch a significant amount of TV are exposed to hundreds of junk food advertisements, making them susceptible to learning unhealthy eating habits. In the second post at, Harminka discussed a study that found that individuals living near supermarkets as well as large parks or open green areas, like the one shown below, are at a decreased risk for being overweight. My comments on these posts can be read below.

I found this post quite interesting, partly due to the fact that a good amount (30%) of the TV ads viewed by children were for food, specifically fast food and unhealthy snacks. This is unsettling because it gives kids the wrong idea about what they should be eating. I completely agree that parents should be aware of how much television their children are watching. A good point was made that not only is watching TV a sedentary activity, keeping kids from physical activity, but in addition it involves advertisements promoting kids’ interest in junk food. Fortunately however, an article was published by Jon Land two days ago stating that in 2008 commercials for unhealthy food products will be banned during programs appealing to adolescents under age 16. This will hopefully not only directly reduce kids’ exposure to such foods, but also indirectly diminish the adverse consequences to their body that comes from eating sweets and fats. I think it is particularly alarming that the study found that the ads “influence parents to buy their children snack foods that have no nutritional value,” because these parents are essentially aiding in the child obesity epidemic. Parents should avoid buying these kinds of snacks and encourage more outdoor activity. They should also emphasize the importance of sit-down family meals as opposed to advocating snacking in front of the TV. It is up to parents to start changing the harmful lifestyle of their kids who are overweight.

I was not entirely surprised to read that living close to large parks or “green space” and supermarkets is associated with a reduced risk for being overweight. It makes sense that children who have access to such vast, open areas of land will have a greater opportunity to enjoy physical activities, allowing them to be more active. In addition, access to supermarkets containing fresh, healthy food choices is extremely beneficial. Lower-income families may lack such means, thus making it difficult for them to obtain fresh produce, like fruits and vegetables. This post supports these ideas stating that proximity to both green space and supermarkets “affects weight by positively influencing physical activity and dietary behaviors.” In light of this, why is obesity still such a growing problem? Parents can take advantage of the parks and supermarkets around their neighborhoods to educate their children about the importance of physical exercise and healthy food choices. More must be done to get young people active. Parents must take responsibility and be good role models for their children by maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order for their kids to follow their lead. It may be too often that parents buy into their children’s pleas for junk food, and avoid opting for healthier options. If America is going to combat obesity, there must be a fundamental change in our children’s behavior as well as a transformation in the behavior of parents.

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