Childhood overweight and obesity is an extremely common, serious and widespread medical condition in the United States. 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the US have obesity. The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, but this rate varies by race and ethnicity. According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics data brief published in the year 2018, the prevalence of obesity was 19.3% and 14.4 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were found to be affected.
A successful planned intervention with an evidenced based approach could bring a better outcome for the upcoming obesity rates in the United States. The childhood obesity crisis can be taken as an opportunity to reform our health-related programs and policies to promote healthy eating in the younger generation.
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Energy imbalances cause our body to store more fat that ultimately leads to weight gain. The type of lifestyle that the younger generation lives with less physical activity and having too many calories from foods and sugary drinks combines the fat accumulation.
It is vital to educate young people to eat healthily and at the same time focus on physical activity and its benefits. Though these behaviors are personal choices, the approach to such individual habits needs to be outlined, and acted upon.
Genetics also plays a major role in obesity, children/ adolescents who cannot lose weight usually have a larger appetite because of certain inherited traits. Medical conditions such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Syndrome may contribute to weight gain.
Consequences of being overweight/ obese
The obese disorder can be a cause of any number of complications starting from metabolic syndrome, hypertension, hypotension, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, extreme blood cholesterol, cancers and sleep conditions. Overweight and obese children are most likely to be teased and bullied which would lead to increased risk of depression. Moreover, obesity rates have a heavy impact on our society estimating an average of 178.5 million dollars in direct and indirect health care costs till the year 2010.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is found to have significantly reduced the obesity rates from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.9% in 2016, across 41 states and territories from 2010 to 2016.
The State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program has helped reduce health disparities by increasing access to healthy foods and promoting physical activity. Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Program strategized to move along the nation’s chronic disease prevention, and health promotion efforts.
A health promotion program focusing on gardening strategies in a classroom-based setting to increase knowledge of school children on edible plants and education about healthy eating as a part of childhood obesity prevention efforts could have a positive effect on the current obesity rates. This unique concept will reinforce the habit of consuming more vegetable produce and hence help in behavioral change among children and adolescents. The results from such interventions in the past have shown that school gardening programs significantly increase the knowledge of vegetable intake, encourage healthy eating and can help reduce obesity among the younger generation.