Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

The Efficacy of a Multifaceted Weight Management Program for Children and Young Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

The Efficacy of a Multifaceted Weight Management Program for Children and Young Adolescents

Article excerpt

The incidence of overweight and obesity among children and young adolescents remains unacceptably high and places our youth at risk for several negative outcomes. Recognizing the need for a youth-focused weight management program in our community, the researcher developed, implemented, and evaluated a small pilot study, FitKids. The aims of FitKids were two-fold. The first aim was to develop a program that addressed three components of weight management exercise, nutrition education, and self-esteem. The second was to assess the efficacy of the program, and to determine if it would be beneficial to offer it to a larger number of participants. Positive changes among the participants (notably higher self-esteem and lower BMI and waist and arm circumference) indicated that the FitKids program is effective, and with additional resources and programming changes, has the potential to grow into a larger, more robust, program.

The incidence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents continues to be problematic in the United States. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 95th percentile from the sex- and age-specific growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data from 2011-2012 show that 17% of preschool children and 20% of school age children are either overweight or obese, and, 18% of adolescents are either overweight or obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014).

There are several negative health, economic, and psychosocial outcomes related to overweight and obesity among children and adolescents. The CDC cites several negative health-related outcomes including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure (CDC, 2014). Hans, Lawlor, and Kimm (2010) found that children and adolescents who were overweight or obese experienced more breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma and more joint problems such as arthritis than children and adolescents who were not overweight or obese.

Medical costs associated with treating children and adolescents with obesity-related conditions also have increased over the past several decades. From 1979 to 1981, medical expenses totaled approximately $35 million and climbed to more than $127 million from 1997 to 1999, a 262% increase (Wang & Dietz, 2002). The U.S. spends about $190 billion annually on healthcare related to obesity (Cawley & Meyerhoefer, 2012).

Negative psychosocial outcomes related to child and adolescent overweight and obesity also have been identified. Cramer and Steinwert (1998) assessed stigmatization among overweight preschool children (ages 3-5 years) and found that these children consistently were viewed as mean and unlikable by their healthy weight peers (whether they were or were not actually mean). Puhl and King's (2013) review of the literature on weight stigmatization and bullying found that being overweight or obese as a child or adolescent is associated with "depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, suicidal ideation, and maladaptive eating behaviors" (p. 117). Williams et al. (2013) also found similar results when assessing the self-esteem and rates of bullying and peer victimization of overweight children (ages 5-7). A higher BMI was associated with lower self-esteem for both boys and girls, and, girls with a higher BMI reported significantly more incidences of bullying than boys and girls with a lower BMI.

To decrease the incidence of obesity, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USD A) recommends that children eat healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. Children also should limit eating foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium (USDA, 2010). The CDC (2014) also recommends that children spend at least 60 minutes per day, 6 days per week, participating in vigorous physical activity in order to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Several intervention programs have been developed to help children and young adolescents who struggle with weight management; many of the programs include both healthy eating and exercise components. …

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