Childhood Obesity: Will Children Live Long Enough To Make a Difference
The late 1940’s brought on a radical and drastic new change to the American culture when McDonald’s first opened its doors and started introducing the public to quick, easy, and convenient new ways to consume their food. McDonald’s prided themselves on being able to easily replicate delicious meals for families in a quick manner in order to provide more time doing other activities instead of being in the kitchen for hours at a time preparing meals. This was a tremendous concept and one that the American people became fond of especially in a post-World War 2 era when the pace of society started to pick up speed and women were starting to enter the workforce at a higher rate than ever before.
Once the success of McDonald’s was seen nationwide, due to Ray Kroc franchising the company and expanding all across the country, other fast food establishments began to emerge, thus giving the people even more choices for quick food options and more excuses to not cook homemade, nutritious meals like in past history. Establishments like Burger King and Taco Bell started their business in the 1950’s and used the similar business model that had been working so well for the McDonald’s franchise. Every passing decade saw more and more increase in activity in the American people’s lives. Work hours started to become longer when businesses incorporated twenty-four hour business hours. Stiffer competition for jobs increased which also led to more people becoming unemployed due to either a lack of education required or other factors. Women also were becoming even more prominent in the business world and establishing themselves as leaders and managers for many companies which took away from the “traditional” model of the family where the woman stayed home and took care of the children, the house, and the cooking. These changes were mostly all positive for the growth of our country except for the fact that Americans started to rely too much on these quick, convenient food options instead of cooking healthy meals for themselves and their family.
Fast food restaurants saw this opportunity to capitalize on the growing trend in America and used clever marketing tactics in order to convince the public that they needed the fast food restaurants in order to survive the hectic pace the world was turning into. By using less than quality ingredients and charging a very low price for food, they almost gave the American population no choice but to dine in their establishments. Over time it just became a habit and after years and years of abusing the food and a lack of exercise because of the heavy demand of their career, people, and especially children have suffered tremendous health issues. The rise of obesity in both adults and children has been steadily increasing over the last half century, not to mention other chronic diseases like diabetes, heart failure, liver failure, ulcers, attention deficit disorder, and the list goes on and on. All of these have a relationship with the choice of food we put into our body, the amount of exercise we as the American population participate in, and lifestyle choices we make each and every day. Fast food restaurants are not solely to blame for the epidemic of obesity spreading across our country. Men, women, and children have a choice whether or not to consume these products, but the marketing and targeting tactics these establishments use to draw in consumers is not helping solve this disease epidemic either. There is not a strong enough regulation of the ingredients used in the food and that is an issue that our federal government needs to help address strongly and quickly because the trends of increased obesity in our entire population is still rising and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon without a radical intervention. The increase use of technology in our country and worldwide has been changing the way people get their information. Technology has also changed the way we live our lives which is another major factor contributing to the marketing of fast food to lower income households and also on how we as a population live our everyday lives.
Technology has attributed to the obesity in the United States without question. There is irrefutable evidence which shows that about one-third of American children and teenagers are overweight or obese, making childhood obesity the leading health concern for parents in the United States. But where did it all start? One can say that the invention of the television in the 1930’s was certainty the pioneer for the future of a technological revolution. This new age device kept children mesmerized for hours while sitting in the same position for hours, for most parents this was a free babysitter and an easy way to keep children entertained. However with the increase of television sales the decrease of physical activity began to take place. The television was only the beginning of technology, and in the late 1950’s video games arrived. An explosion of success hit the video game industry when they began to market specifically toward young adults and kids. The increase of sales attributed to such high popularity that almost every kid in America had a form of video game in their household. Although a great stride for technology, the effects of obesity were beginning to develop at full force. In a not so coincidental twist, the American Academy of Pediatrics has estimated that “the average child spends upwards of seven hours watching television, browsing the Internet and playing video games each day.” This is a huge increase in sedentary hours for children compared to the ratio of hours in which children physically exert their bodies and burn calories.
Besides the overwhelming amounts of technology that surround children everyday, there is another underlying factor regarding technology that influences rates of obesity, that is the exposure that children receive while watching television. Most television advertisements are dominated by major food corporations who are responsible for the selective marketing of vulnerable populations such as children. According to a report in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2008 “9 out of 10 food advertisements shown during Saturday morning children’s programming are for low-nutrient foods that are high in fat, sodium and added sugars.” This intense form of marketing changes children’s perceptions about food and in turn their health as well seeing as they prefer fast foods over healthy foods.
Even more shocking is the fact that technology has a correlation between high rates of snacking and mindless eating. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2014 monitored the habits of 1,003 sixth-graders over the span of a year. What the researchers found was that kids who spent more time in front of a screen whether it was a television screen or a computer screen, snacked more often during their exposure time and ate snacks containing high amount of sugar and fats, rather than vegetables or fruits. Childhood obesity cannot be solely blamed on one individual party because there are many responsible factors leading to this serious issue. One of these beings the similar lifestyle that many parents have in regards to their own kids health.
Prior to the World War, women were stay at home mothers. One a daily basis, women attend to the children, completed daily chores and controlled the average family’s food preparation, while men worked outside the home. Women also spent a good portion of the day finding fresh ingredients, preparing these ingredient, eventually consuming these ingredients and cleaning up afterwards. The correlation in time between the fast food industry’s creation and the first feminist movements that encouraged women to go into the workforce made fast food part of the American dream. In the 1950’s Americans pioneered the first fast food industry that gained so much momentum that people began to overlook the traditional ways of how food was consumed. Americans eating habits have had a major cultural shift, and have continued to decline since then. In decades to follow, other cultures began to contribute to the modified way people ate and cut out meal preparation for their families.This convenience was advertised as a way to add more time to an average day. This meant that fewer meals were being prepared at home and since manufactured food had higher calories than home cooked meals, the average individual’s caloric intake increased dramatically. Cooking could no longer be used as an excuse to limit female involvement within the workforce thus making fast food a proponent of male and female parties. This idea was even more appealing to women who ran these typical duties until that very moment. The manufacturing food industry began to market on the people’s need for rapid convenient food. Processed or manufactured food is often designed as snack food with lots of salt, fat, and sugar, that is then marketed to the public as main meals. The 50’s have remained memorial decades on its passing and in this era we are seeing more obesity in the general community than we did several decades ago. This is due to our broader environment of fast food, video games, and television, in which we live, making it harder to make healthier choices. In the eyes of every parents their child is unique, special and beautiful. However, doctors are now warning parents that their obese child(s) is at risk of facing serious health complication that could cut their lives short. Several American families aren’t knowledgeable about proper nutritional intake and have very little to no physical activity. We are all genetically predisposed to gaining weight, specifically when we are not eating healthy and lack of exercise. So what can parents do? If parents lead a healthy lifestyle, then children will follow their pattern model. It is important parents play a role in the support structure, diet factor, physical activities and overall health of the child.
Childhood obesity has no preferences, it targets children of any age ,sex, and ethnicity. It’s an epidemic that has grown so out of control that according to Kids Health “1 in 3 children are considered overweight or obese”. We can no longer ignore the issue at hand, the children of this country are just that… children. These children do not possess the mental development to control their own habits and realize that they have an issue that needs attention, and although they are part of the problem and solution, it is up to parents and adults to be active about the issue. The key to solving childhood obesity is not to treat it when it has occurred but instead to be proactive and prevent obesity before it can even occur. Programs such as “Just for Kids! Obesity Prevention Program” can help to not only physically motivate children to enjoy working out but it also encourages children to eat healthy. Parents who control the food distribution in the household can also make sure that what children receive for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is low in sugars, and fats and contains more vegetables, fruits and grains than anything else. The future of our country lies in the hands of our children, we need children who will outlive us, who will be the pioneers of the future and it all starts with proper nutrition and exercise. Obese children are at risk of suffering physical and mental health issues for the remainder of their lives; low self-esteem, diabetes, low self-confidence, and cancer. Hours spent in front of the television, on a smartphone, or computer screen have contributed to the decline of physical activity in children. These hours could be spent outside at a park, or even playing a sport of some kind. Lack of nutrition and physical education in not only homes, but school as well is a factor in children becoming obese. Health problems along the lines of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, joint pain, apnea, and fatty liver disease. Children should be exposed to healthy eating habits and physical activities. Fruits and vegetable snacks could be offered instead of foods such as cookies, chips, and ice cream that include a high amount of calories fats or sugar. Replacing everything at once is ideal but not very realistic, taking one step at a time in healthier options for kids can help decline the obesity rate for the future.
- Deckelbaum, R. J., & Williams, C. L. (2001). Childhood Obesity: The Health Issue. Obesity Research, 9(S11). doi:10.1038/oby.2001.125
- The reason we chose this reference is because it explained in depth more of the real health issues children face from obesity in the world. It provided a descriptive analysis of what issues children face when overweight and potential comorbid illnesses they may experience.
- Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Jama, 311(8), 806. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732
- This reference was used because of the information it provided not only on childhood obesity but also adult obesity in the United States and how the examples parents lead by can shape the health and attitudes of their children when it comes to making healthy food choices.
- Ebbeling, C. B., Pawlak, D. B., & Ludwig, D. S. (2002). Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. The Lancet, 360(9331), 473-482. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(02)09678-2
- Dawes, Laura. Childhood obesity in America. Harvard University Press, 2014.
- Gortmaker, Steven L., et al. ‘Increasing pediatric obesity in the United States.’ American journal of diseases of children 141.5 (1987): 535-540.
- Ludwig, David S., Karen E. Peterson, and Steven L. Gortmaker. ‘Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis.’ The Lancet 357.9255 (2001): 505-508.
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