Stay Smart: Lost Weight: Childhood Obesity and Health Education

By Kosa-Postl, Linda | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Stay Smart: Lost Weight: Childhood Obesity and Health Education


Kosa-Postl, Linda, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Abstract

Prevention is the key strategy for controlling the current epidemic levels of childhood obesity. Current statistics show that obesity has more than doubled for preschool children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years. It is generally recognized that nutrition education for the general population needs to be improved. What else is apparent is that citizens are the responsible ones for curing and preventing obesity. Lifestyle behaviors, weight loss programs, and strategies to curb malnutrition have offered little impact on the growing increase of the obesity epidemic. Studies provide strong evidence that nutrition programs in public schools have increased intelligence level and cognitive ability. Countless articles have been written identifying malnutrition exhibition of behavior disorders and aggressive behavior leading to at risk adolescents. Environmental conditions--social, economic, and political--have lead to a lack of effective and coordinated preventive public policies. While the government has set standards for graduation requirements in elementary/secondary education, the identical approach to develop obligatory health interventions could be a powerful weapon against obesity. Herein lays the essence of a clear definition and recommendation of a policy that serves the purpose of curtailing the epidemic of obesity and constructing future learning capabilities of youth. The major findings of the report encompass a creative concept in which the government specifically monitors the health of each child in a public school system to assure participants are meeting the criteria for a healthy lifestyle.

Introduction

In a nation faced with the ongoing challenge of ensuring all of its citizens have a healthy and active lifestyle it is no surprise that people are seeking alternative methods of overcoming the problem of childhood obesity which currently seems almost impossible to solve. The time has come to face this issue with the determination that no human being, especially children, suffer the indignity of ill health while the underlying cause of obesity runs rampant.

Obesity is defined as the presence of excess adipose tissue. To be more definitive, any child who exceeds their height and weight above the 75th percentile for age and sex while suffering from morbidity worsened by obesity should be considered obese. Countless articles have been written establishing developed countries, particularly the United States, have reached epidemic proportions in both adults and children. Between 1976 and 1991 the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States alone increased by 31% (Heini and Weinsier 1997), then between 1994 and 2000 it increased by another 24% (Flegal et al 2002). Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) substantiates the continuing increase in overweight among children during the past two decades. (Flegal et al 2004). The percentage of overweight children has nearly doubled, from 7 percent to 13 percent, while the percentage of overweight adolescents has almost tripled, from 5 percent to 14 percent. These numbers may be higher in some ethic minority groups. In the cultural arena of Hispanic and Afro-American subcultures, the reasons of economic and geographic location are more prominent. Nationwide, obesity among black and Hispanic children increased by more than 120 percent compared to about 50 percent among white children from 1996 to 1998. In low-income, rural regions of Mexico, for instance, the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity was nearly 60% in women and more than 50% in men (Fernald 2004).

Studies completed by Rosenbaum and Leibel show that obesity is a complex disease in genetic, metabolic and behavioral determinants. (Rosenbaum, Leibel 1998). However, which way one chooses to look for clues in the development of obesity, the bottom line is that it can be fixed. …

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