According to WHO (2018) statistics, childhood obesity is one of the most serious health challenges of the 21st century suffered globally. It is more prominent though in developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Also known as Paediatric Obesity, it is defined as high weight for age. It can be simply explained as a child being significantly above the normal weight for his age and height.
This is a very dangerous state of health for a child to be in as it opens him or her up, to many other health problems and conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol that can eventually lead to death. Obese children who do not die most likely always grow up to be obese adults. Even though this conundrum as problem solutions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The prevalence of childhood Obesity seems to be on the increase as seen in a research paper thesis on Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition and other childhood obesity essays. The results state that in 2010, 43 million children (about 35 million in developing countries) were estimated to be overweight and obese while 92 million were at risk of becoming overweight and obese.
One-third of children in America is obese and is increasing. In the United Kingdom, facts show that an estimated sixth (16%) of boys and girls aged 2–15 years are obese and almost a third (30%) are either overweight or obese.
Causes and risk factors
Majority of these causes are:
- 1. The basic cause of obesity in children is the consumption of high energy or energy-dense foods without an adequate and proper balance of high nutrient foods. Feeding children with foods high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and so on is very detrimental to the growth of the child.
Sedentary lifestyle: a child consuming energy-dense food but doesn’t engage in physical activities such as exercise or have an active schedule may become obese.
- 3. Heredity: not all children with family histories of obesity eventually are obese but they have a high tendency of becoming obese themselves. Parents with bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle pass on their behaviours to their children and since children have no say in the kind of environment they are exposed to and the food they eat it causes them to imbibe those behaviours and become like their parents or guardians
- 4. Genetic: it can be a result of hormonal changes causing changes in the amount of fat stored in the body.
- 5. Socioeconomic issues such as culture, low income and environment: In a society where they believe that a fat baby is a healthy baby, children born there would have risks of becoming obese. Low-income earners purchase cheap and readily available high caloric foods which cause obesity but does not provide balance by adding vitamins and so on.
- 6. Ignorance and lack of correct information: parents with poor knowledge on the right feeding practices and approach to nutrition do not feed their children appropriately
Effects in Children in the long and short run
On health:Some immediate effects are the development of conditions like cardiomyopathy, pancreatitis, orthopedic disorders, upper airway obstruction, or chest wall restriction.
More immediate effects are high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and asthma and glucose intolerance. The ones that develop in the long run are type II diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), suboptimal peak bone mass, osteoporosis, gallstones, and diet-related cancers in later life, especially if the increase is sustained in adult life. On psychology:Excess weight in children has been known to lead to low self-esteem, depression and social isolation. Obese children have overtime lost confidence in their own abilities especially since most of them cannot fit into the world of their mates.
Prevention and solutions
Here is an outline of the possible problem solution to Childhood Obesity:
- 1. Living by example: Since children cannot decide what they eat and the kind of environment they live in, adults around them should choose healthy foods.
This will go a long way in prevention and serve as a solution to an already existing condition in the child. They should also emphasize the importance of healthy eating habits.
- 2. Application of behavioural treatment strategies: parents should enforce certain rules such as no watching TV while eating and regular exercises.
Also, active games could be introduced to their daily activities and teach them the importance of breakfast.
- 3. Ensure that your child goes for check-ups regularly
- 4. Encourage eating together as a family as often as possible.
Planning a Diet schedule can help to limit eating out.
If children have obesity they are prone to disease and adult obesity. Therefore, prevention should be the main goal taking all possible measures. The statistic showing the number of children at risk should greatly reduce if sensitization projects are also undertaken to raise a healthier generation.