Obesity in children is one of the contemporary epidemics that have hit high levels across the entire globe. To put it in understandable terms, obesity is an epidemic that is characterized by problems of excessive weight. Obesity is caused and enhanced by several health factors that prevail in the environment in which children grow. Research in the field of nutrition and dietetics shows a rapid rise in the number of cases of children who are being afflicted with obesity. This is a worrying trend considering the fact that obesity restraints people from actively engaging in societal activities. As pointed out by researchers, it is crucial to explore the modalities through which the rising cases of obesity in children can be cut down to encourage the prevalence of a healthy population. The rationale behind the observation is that children form a critical part of the future generation, thus bringing the exploration of the modalities of reducing the cases of obesity in children is one of the best ways of guaranteeing a healthy population in the future society.
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This paper presents a report of the research that was conducted to ascertain the extent to which obesity affects children in the contemporary society and the modalities of reducing cases of obesity in children. Of greater focus in the report is the exploration of the severity of obesity cases in children and the contemporary interventions that are critical as far as addressing the problem of obesity in children is concerned. The report is divided into three main sections. The first section presents findings about the severity of the cases of obesity in children. Under this part, the sets of interventions are discussed. The second part, which is also critical, presents an analysis of the findings. The third part of this report presents conclusions about the findings and recommendations about the best suited interventions as far as addressing the problem of obesity in children is concerned.
Obesity in children
Health records in a substantial number of countries, including the United States, indicate a high number of children from five years and over with overweight. Similar trends are also observed among children who fall below the age of five years, commonly known as preschoolers. The epidemiological trends from the beginning of the 21st century show an acceleration of cases of overweight in children, which is a pointer to the growing number of obese children in the world. It is estimated that a total of 1 billion people globally have obesity. Health statistics in the United States and the European Union denote that a third of children in these regions are experiencing problems of excessive weight (Davies, Fitzgerald & Mousouli, 2008).
Cases of child obesity are also prevalent in other regions of the world like Africa, Asia and Australia. This affirms that obesity in children in an epidemic that affects the entire globe. A research that was conducted in Africa indicates that the total number of children who suffer from obesity has multiplied twice since the year 1990. The most critical factor that comes from the study is that cases of obesity co-prevail with cases of malnutrition (Rossouw, Grant & Viljoen, 2012). These observations imply that obesity is a real challenge in the health sector, bearing in mind that cases of adults who have problems of overweight are not mentioned.
With various causes being associated with the rise in the number of cases of obesity in children, it is critical to note that the number of children being affected with the condition is rising at an accelerating pace, causing panic not only among the healthcare professionals, but also among parents. From the research conducted, it is apparent that there is a concern among a substantial number of stakeholders about the rise in the cases of obesity in children across the world. Therefore, childhood obesity is considered to be a global healthcare problem (Isma et al., 2012).
Different factors integrate and result in the rise in the number of children who are becoming obese. It is important to make a difference between genuine cases of overweight from the post-natal health records and the real cases of overweight that are recorded by healthcare providers. However, what has been observed over time is that the so called genuine cases of overweight in children eventually graduate to obese cases (Davies, Fitzgerald & Mousouli, 2008). People perceive cases of obesity differently. However, the perceptions are not given the desired level of attention by healthcare staffs dealing with the problem of obesity in children. Healthcare providers only focus on the dietary perspectives on the condition (Jackson et al., 2005). However, an exploration of diverse studies about the disease indicates that a number of factors, most of which are beyond the dietary realm, play a critical role in enhancing the severity of overweight cases in children. Different conceptions of childhood obesity prevail in the contemporary society (Isma et al., 2012, p. 60). These conceptions are presented in the table below.
|Categories of conception of cases of obesity by healthcare staffs|
|Perception of childhood overweight changes|| |
|Overweight in younger children a neglected concern|| |
|Overweight a delicate issue|| |
|Importance of family lifestyle|| |
Figure 1.0: The conception of obesity cases by healthcare providers. Source: (Isma et al., 2012, p. 60).
From the table above, it can be observed that there are diverse conceptions about obesity. The diversity of these conceptions is a hindering factor as far as addressing cases of obesity in the society is concerned. There is need to develop and harmonize the ground on which obesity in children can be conceived by all the stakeholders. A clear approach that can lead to the establishment of a valid framework under which the intervention programs can be established depends on the development of a common understanding about the condition through analysis and the ascertainment of the diverse conceptions. According to Davies, Fitzgerald and Mousouli (2008), obesity is caused and aggravated by several factors. These factors must be understood in order to develop a desirable mechanism of understanding the epidemic and the diverse approaches that are needed for mitigating the impacts and levels of the epidemic in the world today.
Causes of obesity
According to Davies, Fitzgerald and Mousouli (2008) and Burniat (2002), a lot of factors among them dietary, socio-emotional, behavioral and economic in the infancy stages play a substantive role in causing obesity in the life of a child. Energy intake and expenditure in children is a vital factor in establishing the rate at which children gain weight. The mere focus on the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure cannot give a solid basis on which to assess the lack of balance between energy intake and expenditure, which results in excessive weight gain in children. Research reveals that there are a set of other ecological and psychological factors that contribute to weight gain in children. The psychological factors are contributed by a number of conditions that prevail in an environment in which a child is being raised.
These include parental and family attitudes and the nutritional accolades that are embraced in the family in which a child is being raised (Puder & Munsch, 2010). The complete comprehension of these factors requires an exploration and understanding of the early development continuum in children (Griffiths, Dezateux & Hill, 2011). In their research, Puder and Munsch (2010) brought out a number of conditions that are associated with obesity in children. These include depression and anxiety in children, uncontrolled eating and impulsivity and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. This implies that there are more factors that are based on the psychological health of child that shape the course of obesity in children.
Health Interventions for children with obesity
Griffiths, Dezateux and Hill (2011) have ascertained that the developmental environment in which children grow is importance since it shapes and determines the emotional levels and behaviors of children. While the real causative factor for obesity may be biological and dietary for that matter, the development and persistence of the disease are enhanced by the stability factors in the behavior of children. The essence of addressing the socio-emotional behaviors in children, especially the behaviors that are attributed to the development cycle in children is denoted here. Such a step is useful and aids in addressing the prevalence of obesity in children. The fact that most of the factors that steer the prevalence of obesity in children are associated with the environment in which children are brought up implies that the interventions have to be set at different levels. This entails the family-centered interventions, as well as other social institutions like schools, sports centers, and health centers among others. Of greater relevance is the incorporation of all the people that are critical in dealing with the correlates of child psychology that are likened to obesity (Puder & Munsch, 2010).
Analysis of findings
Research denotes a rise in the number of cases of children with obesity across the globe. With more cases being reported in healthcare institutions, it is apparent that obesity in children has been subjected to diverse perceptions. However, the diverse perceptions are not given attention by healthcare providers as more attention is given to the nutritional inclination of the condition. The perceptions are vital as they give room for exploring other factors that may be integrated with the nutritional factors to enhance the cause of obesity in children. Most of the perceptions revolve around the family factor and the socio-emotional, as well as the psychological factors during the development of children.
The prevalent of the diverse conceptions and perceptions about the causes of obesity in children come from the fact that a lot of attention has been paid to the cases of obesity in adults. The obese cases in children are only treated as a recent epidemic in the history of public health across the globe. However, the trend is worrying and the more healthcare providers and the general public are left to lean on these perceptions and conceptions, the more the level of prevalence of the condition is likely to accelerate, resulting in difficulties in mitigating the epidemic.
Research denotes that there are diverse causes of obesity in children across the globe. The fact that problems of obesity and malnutrition prevail in similar regions like Africa is one of the indicators that obesity in children is a problem that is not merely pegged on dietary issues, but also other developmental factors in the lives of children. A substantial number of studies link the problem of obesity in children with adolescence, which is a critical developmental stage in the life of a child. The adolescent stage in the life of children is associated with a lot of emotional issues. This justifies the finding that emotional and behavioral factors play a role in enhancing obesity in children. This is the reason why a lot of studies on obesity in children bring out the issue of adolescence. However, it is important to differentiate between emotions as an enhancing factor for obesity, on the one hand, and emotional problems as a factor that enhance the cases of obesity in children, on the other hand.
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Obesity is not merely caused by the lack of balance between the intake of energy and the expenditure of energy in child metabolisms. However, dietary issues cannot be ruled out, but they can be considered as part of the causative factors of the epidemic. Studying the nature of the ecology in which cases of obesity in children prevail unearths a combination of factors, both dietary and physical, as well as emotional and psychological factors and the role that is played by each stimulus in advancing obesity in children.
Conclusion and recommendations
There is a substantial increase in the number of obese cases in children today, contrary to early times when obesity was only a common case among the adult population in the world. With the total figure of people who are suffering from obesity having hit the one billion mark, the number of children who are suffering from the disease has kept rising, resulting in reduction in the ratio of adult to children as far as the epidemiology of obesity across the globe is concerned. Statistics on diabetes in children have raised a lot of concern, thereby sparking research and the deployment of several strategies that are meant to check the increase in the number of cases of obesity in children.
However, the lack of a common understanding about obesity in children results in diverse perceptions and uncoordinated interventions. It is vital to develop a common understanding of the disease. This entails harmonization of several research results about the disease to establish the real causes and factors that promote the progression of obesity among children in the world. With such a strategy, it is easy to harmonize response to the epidemic using desirable approaches that can result in a reduction in the emergence of new cases of obesity in children, as well as improvement in the condition of children who are obese since obesity in children is caused by a series of both ecological and biological factors.
One thing that has come out of the research is that the complexity in understanding the emergence and progression of cases of obesity in children is caused by the presence of scattered opinions and conceptions about the epidemic. This calls for the harmonization of research findings and the establishment of a unified knowledge about obesity in children in order to develop harmonized initiatives of intervening and mitigating the epidemic. This should begin with the synthesis and harmonization of knowledge about causes of the epidemic and factors that promote the persistence of the epidemic in afflicted populations.
One main critical denominator in staging interventions is having a concise and clear intervention strategy that is specific in nature. Diabetes in children is caused by several factors, thus there is need to coordinate the interventions to ensure that the diverse causative factors are addressed. Focusing on one intervention cannot deal with the problem sufficiently. Some interventions need to focus on emotional factors and behavioral factors, while others have to deal with dietary complexities. Harmonizing the interventions can ensure that the rates of emergence of newer cases go down and that the recovery of the children who are afflicted with the condition is improved.
There is need to shift from ancient research on the issue and focus on the emerging developments in order to clearly bring out the factors that promote obesity in children. Current research points to the presence of an array of factors that promote obesity in children. These include psychological and ecological factors.
Burniat, W. (2002). Child and adolescent obesity: Causes and consequences, prevention and management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Davies, H. D., Fitzgerald, H. E., & Mousouli, V. (2008). Obesity in childhood and adolescence. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Griffiths, L. J., Dezateux, C., & Hill, A. (2011). Is obesity associated with emotional and behavioral problems in children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 6(2), 423-432.
Isma, G. E., Bramhagen, A., Ahlstrom, G., Östman, M., & Dykes, A. (2012). Swedish Child Health Care nurses conceptions of overweight in children: a qualitative study. BMC Family Practice, 13(1), 57-67.
Jackson, D., McDonald, G., Mannix, J., Faga, P., & Firtko, A. (2005). Mothers’ perceptions of overweight and obesity in their children. The Australian journal of advanced nursing: A quarterly publication of the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, 23(2), 8-13.
Puder, J. J., & Munsch, S. S. (2010). Psychological correlates of childhood obesity. International Journal Of Obesity, 34, 37-43.
Rossouw, H. A., Grant, C. C., & Viljoen, M. (2012). Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: The South African problem. South African Journal if Science, 108(5/6), 1-7.