It is no secret that the body rewards itself when fueled with what it needs. Unfortunately, many children around the world are not receiving the daily nutrition they need to thrive. This problem has made many children victims of bad health and habits. Healthy choices within the family can help children reach optimal health and growth. When children are provided with a well-rounded diet, they have the potential to illustrate the best version of themselves. Unfortunately there are far too many households that do not practice healthy lifestyles. This has lead to a widespread health concern for many children around the world. Kids are becoming more unhealthy and gaining more weight. The main causes of childhood obesity revolve around continuous behaviors, and community involvement.
Bad behaviors are built at home and have directly been linked to childhood obesity. One small study compared the behaviors of children who have had a full nights rest, versus those who did not. The goal was to illustrate one cause of childhood obesity by seeking the comparisons between habitual sleep duration (HSD,) and habitual sleep variability (HSV.) Habitual sleep duration is simply the duration of time spent sleeping. Habitual sleep variability includes the things that are subject to change during your sleep routine such as food and beverage consumption. The study states, “For example, with a 1-h increase in HSV, there was a 170 (66)-kcal increase in the daily total energy intake. An increased HSV was also related to increased snack consumption, especially snacks consumed after dinner.” (Fan-He) This shows that children who practice sleep routines that do not provide them with a full nights rest, are targets for childhood obesity because of extra unnecessary caloric intake.
Calories consumed during the day have proven even more important than those consumed at night. Many modern day families have become accustomed to getting everything done fast. Fast food chains have fueled this movement and accommodated societies need to have their breakfast, lunch, and dinner on-the-go. This has created a lifestyle revolving around parents filling their children with high calorie, low nutrient food and beverages. Many agree that these foods are the main culprits linked to childhood obesity. In families where parents do not usually provide fast food, children are still falling victim to consuming hidden sugars found in trusted brands. One article reads, “Innocent Smoothie Pomegranate, Blueberry & Acai (250ml): This drink may contain no added sugar but it still contains 34.3g sugar. That’s the equivalent of three and a half Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. It has 30 per cent more sugar per 100ml than Coca-Cola, and is the most sugary smoothie on the market.” (Romero-Kat) Even brands that claim to be “innocent,” will cleverly label their products to gain customers trust. Bad calories regularly incorporated into a child’s diet is one key cause of the childhood obesity epidemic across the world.
By encouraging healthy lifestyles in children, community involvement proves to be a vital key in their success. In communities where economic factors such as employment rates or household incomes are low, it has been found that the rate of obese children is high. If families cannot afford healthy foods, or have limited access to supermarkets, they are more likely to purchase foods that do not spoil as fast. These include foods with little-to-no nutrient base, such as frozen or convenience meals. Families who live in low income neighborhoods may also not have access to fitness, or sports clubs. Communities encourage the rate of obese children by limiting the resources available for families to make healthy decisions. When children are not involved in physical activity and have access to unhealthy foods, the rate of overweight children rises. Lack of community involvement in children’s health remains a leading cause of childhood obesity across the world.
Daycares and schools in many countries have been seen guilty of contributing to childhood obesity, and it is easy to see why. When you take a look behind the curtain, you can see that the meal plans and routines implemented in daycares and schools are far from beneficial. “Forty-two percent of children under age 5 with employed mothers spent at least 35 hours a week in child care in 2002.1 The proportion is even greater (50.6 percent) among children whose mothers worked full-time.” (Capizanno and Main 1) Time spent in daycare or school can greatly affect children’s overall nutritional intake. Depending on what they offer to eat or drink, also depends on the funding available. Can you imagine sending your children to daycare for 35 hours a week just to find out they are being malnourished and awarded little recess times? Most of these problems come from incorrect budget and schedule planning. Schools and daycares are spending less money on healthy foods, and circulating this money to other departments. Many schools have overlooked the importance of recess times, and filled this time with more classroom hours. Children in daycare have followed this trend and are spending less time outdoors, and more time inside. This misguided ideology has contributed to the soaring rates of childhood obesity around the world.
Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. In regards to major health concerns, obesity in children has never been more prevalent. Bad behaviors and lack of community involvement, can lead children down a long road of unhealthy habits, and major health concerns. Conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, Asthma, and heart disease have a greater chance of being avoided in children with healthy diets. It is easy to see why childhood obesity has become a public health concern. Changes in childhood obesity rates start with the parents. When parents change their at-home habits, such as screen time and physical activity, the chances of childhood obesity decreases. It has also been recommended that parents seek counsel to reduce risk of obesity in the household. “Potential actions include
colleges and universities that offer degree programs in child development, early childhood education, nutrition, nursing, physical education, public health, and medicine requiring content within coursework on how to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior in young children;” (Birch 59) Fortunately, causes of childhood obesity are slowly being controlled. Childhood obesity prevention policies have been introduced to many daycares and schools that regulate the diets and exercise times of children. This epidemic is slowly being shown a new light, that sub par standards are no longer acceptable.
More adults around the world are taking the call-to-action to help lower childhood obesity rates. The trend is catching current and more adults are changing their own lifestyles to stop the growing number of obese children. There are many causes of childhood obesity in the world, but there are so many solutions! In order for society to tip the scale, the collective effort from adults in the community is vital. Even adults who are not parents have opportunities to mentor obese kids by being healthy role models. Volunteers help serve healthy snacks, and host field days at after-school programs. Daycares implement “outdoor classrooms” where they take the classroom to the trees. There are plenty of opportunities to help rid of childhood obesity. Will you be apart of the change?
Birch, Leann L, et al. (Parker, Burns.) Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies. Institute of Medicine,The National Academies Press, 2011, page 59
Capizzano, Jeffrey, and Regan Main. Many Young Children Spend Many Hours in Child Care. Snapshots of America’s Families, No. 22, Assessing the New Federalism, Apr 2005
Fan He, et al. (Bixler, Berg, Kawasawa, Vgontzas, Mendoza, Yanosky, Liao.) Habitual sleep variability, not sleep duration, is associated with caloric intake in adolescents. Sleep Medicine, Elesevier Inc, 2015
Romero, Kat. REVEALED: The hidden sugar lurking in your children’s ‘healthy’ snacks. Life & Style, Diets, Express Newspapers, 9 Sept 2016.