Large-Scale Efforts to Battle Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity: A Realistic Solution
According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, obesity is classified as having a BMI, also known as body mass index, of forty or higher (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019). A person’s body mass index is meant to be an indicator of high body fatness and, although it does not directly measure body fat, “research has shown that it is correlated with some of the more direct measures of body fat such as: skinfold thickness measurements, bioelectrical impendence, and other methods” (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2014). Although a child’s BMI is calculated the same way an adult’s would be, which is weight, because weight and height changes with age BMI levels in children must be compared relatively to other children of the same sex and age (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2015). Childhood Obesity has become a problem of epidemic proportions. In 2014 the prevalence in obesity for children and adolescents aged two to nineteen years old, was approximately nineteen percent and affected nearly fourteen million children and adolescents (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2014). Some of the most prominent solutions for the childhood obesity epidemic include growing communities in a more effective way, varying the tactics on the battlefront, and spending time to find a common ground.
One major cause of childhood obesity is that today’s cities and towns are more of a suburban sprawl. Approximately two hundred and twenty-one million people live in rural and suburban places, as opposed to the ninety-eight million that live in urban areas (Parker, 2018). One way to combat that is known as smart growth. Smart Growth is a form of urban planning that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl. “Former Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening, who is now president of the nonprofit Smart Growth Leadership Institute, believes that incorporating opportunities for physical activity into built environment design is an important part of the mix to fight childhood obesity” (Hood, 2005). According to the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, policy-makers need to take a broader, more long-term view of the potential impact of their zoning decisions as the “shift of funds towards public transport, the creation of sidewalks and bicycle paths, and the preservation of open spaces are critical smart growth concepts” (Hood, 2005). If physical activity and health variables become part of the city planning discussions, smart growth can have a significant impact on the childhood obesity rates. A change would not happen overnight, but already effects can be seen in communities that were early adopters of these ideals, and they have become fun places where its citizens want to be out and about (Hood, 2005).
The war on childhood obesity is being fought on many different fronts. One of the most influential and far-reaching by far is the media environment. For instance, “Sesame Street, with its large audience of preschool children, has launched a multiyear, content-driven initiative called Healthy Habits for Life” (Hood, 2005). The program, which has been integrated into all of Sesame Street’s media types including videos, television, magazines, books, and its online resources, promotes that healthy eating habits are just as important for early development as reading and writing are.
It is not just children’s shows that can be successful in combating childhood obesity. “Food and beverage giant PepsiCo have recognized that there is a tremendous business opportunity in offering consumers more nutritious, healthful products, according to vice president of marketing for health and wellness Ellen Taaffe” (Hood, 2005). In fact, according to Taaffe health-oriented products are now the company’s fastest growing sector and even represents almost forty percent of the whole company portfolio (Hood, 2005). PepsiCo is not the only company beginning to successfully promote health and fitness. “Cathleen Toomey, vice president of communications at Stoney field Farm, the nation’s largest producer of organic yogurt, described that company’s successful efforts to launch the first organic and healthy vending machines for schools” (Hood, 2005). When first starting the program, Stoney field Farm had a waiting list for their healthy vending machines with over nine hundred and thirty machines on it.
By far the hardest part of trying to overcome the childhood obesity epidemic is that, although people are committed to solving the issue, the efforts are not organized or sustained, and are likely not being directed towards the correct audience, which should be the youngest children and their families. “Speaker David McCarron described the work of Shaping America’s Youth, a public–private partnership that recently conducted a national survey of programs directed at physical activity and nutrition in children” (Hood, 2005). Shaping America’s Youth’s main initiative is to help to create a one national plan to combat childhood obesity, rather than have many individuals trying separately to fight the battle. Over the next few years Shaping America’s Youth “will be conducting a series of town hall meetings over the next year in Memphis, Dallas, Philadelphia, and several California cities to get feedback from demographically representative community members” (Hood, 2005). These meetings are meant to help the organization hear at a local level from communities, and the families that live in them, what they feel the main issues and barriers are. Only once a common ground is acquired between communities will the group be able to unite the fight nationally.
In conclusion, growing communities in a more effective way, varying the tactics on the battlefront, and spending time to find a common ground are the most prominent solutions for the childhood obesity epidemic. Using the Smart Growth technique when planning new developments in a city can help to grow the community in such a way that physical activity becomes not only a necessity, but something that citizen’s look forward to doing. Using varying tactics in the fight against childhood obesity can help to reinforce the idea to children that healthy eating habits are just as important as eating and writing. Along with that, with Shaping America’s Youth continuing their quest to develop a national action plan to combat childhood obesity, finding a common ground for the country to stand upon is not that far away. Although childhood obesity is classified as an epidemic, epidemic does not equal invincible, and every day from now on is a day closer to the end of this epidemic.
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