The prevalence of obesity rises rapidly and continues to be one of the most serious health crises facing humanity, while all the main contributors of this epidemic remains unclear. The heightened increase in the rate of childhood obesity epidemic in both high- and low- and middle-income economies have brought the worlds attention to this global concern (WHO, 2015, p. 9). When defined, obesity occurs when a childs body mass index (BMI) is equal or greater than 95th percentile, which means the person is well above the healthy weight for his or her age and height (Zidenberg & Wright, 2008). It is further said that a person with a BMI of equal or greater than 85th percentile or BMI of equal or less than 95th percentile as being at risk of being overweight (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008).
Studies about obesity has further shown that its prevalence has ballooned substantially since the mid-20th century (McAllister et al., 2009). Childhood obesity, meanwhile, has more than tripled since 1980 (Ogden et al., 2012), while in the United States this has been increasing in prevalence for over one hundred years (Helmchen & Henderson, 2004). The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 43 million children from ages 0-5 years old were found to be overweight or obese as of 2010, which reflected a global prevalence of 6.7% (National Nutrition Surveillance Centre, 2014). It was further predicted that 70 million infants and young children will be obese by 2025, whose vast majority will come from low- and middle-income countries (WHO, 2015).
Although there have been various literature and scientific research from different expert health groups, government leadership, and global non-government agencies that offer recommendations to preventing the obesity epidemic, tackling this urgent public issue remains slow and inconsistent. Part of the problem in tackling the issue may stem from lack of further study on understanding the complex origins and contributors of the prevalence of obesity.
Whos to Blame: Causes of Childhood Obesity
There are numerous contributors to the prevalence of obesity, ranging from exposures to behavioral, lifestyle and environmental factors, to socio-emotional, economic and other influences (Healthy Choices, Healthy Lifestyle, 2015; Pirgon & Aslan, 2015). The remarkable concern, however, in learning about these causes is that causes are similar for youth and adult alike. Hence, through understanding the main contributors to the rise of obesity problems, tackling this global epidemic would be accelerated, leading to faster and better policies in ending this health scourge.
A pan-European obesity-reduction study conducted by the European Union indicated as one of the leading causes of overweight and obese individuals across age groups the marked sudden changes in the average Europeans lifestyle (Heinen et al., 2014). As with their American counterparts, young European people are, more than ever, indulging in more inexpensive food sources, such as fast food, substantial amounts of high-fructose corn syrup or sugar-sweetened beverages, eating outside the home, and spending less time eating family meals, among many others. Moreover, young Europeans nowadays obtain prepared and processed foods more in a more accessible fashion and in larger portion sizes. This pattern is not dissimilar with their American counterparts that consume energy-dense beverages from machines, which are widely-available in populated spaces. (Heinen et al., 2014; McAllister et al., 2009).
Another major contributor to the prevalence of obesity cited by both American and European government leaderships has been the remarkable change in physical activity patterns among young people. According to the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre (Heinen et al., 2014), for example, physical activity among children in EU Member States has been found to have declined between the age range of 11 to 15 years old. In their 2012 study, for instance, the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre reported that only 1 out of 5 European children indicated taking part in regular moderate-to-high-intensity exercise. These activities, incidentally, have been replaced by doing more popular past time habits, such as watching more television shows and spending more time on sedentary leisure activities, such as gaming and computers (Heinen et al., 2014).
Furthermore, the physical environment is another contributory culprit alleged to play a vital role in influencing activity patterns of its inhabitants. In Europe, for instance, it has been indicated that the layout of many communities provide limited or no safe spaces for young people and children to be physically active in, whether as part of their free time or as part of their commute to and from school or university by walking or cycling (Heinen et al., 2014).
There are also studies that heave the blame to the alleged contribution of globalization and urbanization to the epidemic of obesity among young people (Pirgon & Aslan, 2015). When children from high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries and across all socio-economic groups are exposed to these so-called obesogenic environment that encourages gaining weight, the problem would persist. Todays children easily gain access to cheap and readily-available but unhealthy food sources, such as energy-dense but nutrient-lacking food amidst a decline in physical activity for transport or physical leisure activities (Pirgon & Aslan, 2015; WHO, 2015).
Among a number of most commonly advanced contributors for the increased childhood obesity statistics, unhealthy lifestyle and certain food marketing tactics are often alleged to be leading perpetrators for this urgent health problem sans the presentation of solid evidence that would support these claims (McAllister, et al., 2009). The dominance of these two reasons have been a fodder in many conversations and literature concerning obesity; but questioning its contribution to the endemic rise of obesity problem including but not limited to its components, such as availability of inexpensive food sources such as fast food, increased presence of vending machines with energy-filled items, and less physical education in schools, among others is not in any way questioning the importance of these common contributors in heightening the obesity levels. Per chance, the aim has always been about widening the dialogue about the other causes of obesity that when identified could increase the likelihood for society to strategically prevent obesity (McAllister et al., 2009; Harrison et al., 2011).
Second, limiting the research to a mere fraction of the factors that trigger the risks of obesity can only but imperil chances for the swift resolution in the fight against obesity among children. Policymakers, who can draft bills and campaigns and propose expenditures for programs ending obesity for children, might also be constraint to push for the best solution in a wider mileage (Harrison et a., 2011).
Third, an ill-advised anti-obesity program can be the result of lack of further investigation about the root cause of this epidemic; thus, the same could inadvertently affect further and future exploratory research that will identify other potential contributors to obesity, and in the process introduce alternative programme geared to reduce the prevalence of this urgent health epidemic among children (McAllister et. al., 2009).
A Brief Look at the Obesity Numbers
Researches on the population of obese children conducted by Ogden et al. (2012) and McCallister et al. (2009), World Health Organization (2015), and the European Union (2014), enabled this research to build a picture of the weight status of global children and how their weight changes transition as they mature.
Although it was once unsurprising to see American children becoming more at risk of getting obesity, an alarming statistic on the rise of obesity among European children was apparently something for policymakers to be alarmed about. In sum, further survey would be necessary to investigate whether in some countries obesity rates among children have stabilized or have fallen drastically due to successful intervention campaigns of government and supporting sectors.
Challenges in Finding A Solution
The combined global toll of adult and childhood obesity puts billions of people worldwide at increased risk for a host of chronic health complications and illnesses, such as heart diseases and diabetes (WHO, 2015). The long-term health consequences include grave heart problems, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and even several types of cancer (National Center for Health Statistics, 2012). Furthermore, other immediate health, psychological, and social effects to children suffering from obesity include susceptibility to anxiety, dampened self-esteem, depression, and being the subject of discrimination, bullying and hate crimes (Heinen et al., 2014; WHO, 2015; National Center for Health Statistics, 2012).
As a social health problem, obesity is costing countries bigger expenditures in raising awareness about childhood obesity. Government funds are higher as well in launching and implementing preventable and healthcare intervention campaigns and programs. There is also a need for childhood obesity to be recognized as a public health issue along with malnutrition and under-nutrition and stunting. To wit, under-nutrition can trigger the development of obesity among children, especially when food and physical activity patterns change (WHO, 2015).
Thus, the initially assumed way to address childhood obesity problem through thoroughly identifying all conceivable contributors to obesity may be hugely daunting. This has been observed by the research team led by Harrison et al. (2010) on the challenge that beset efforts to come up with a single unifying theoretical model that would list all factors that determine a childs weight status. The Six-Cs model seeks to acknowledge dimensions specific to hereditary factors and the environment to activity and also nutrition, to resources and opportunities and the environment, to activity and nutrition, to resources and opportunities and practices, and to development from birth through adolescence (Harrison et al., 2010). Their Six-Cs model was a proactive way to address the challenges inherent in listing all conceivable factors on childhood obesity, leading to finding a solution to the childhood obesity epidemic.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Globally, the prevalence of obesity is growing to be a national public health concern. Using the different findings about the rapid rise of childhood obesity epidemic and through a review of related literature about curbing this concern, these exercise show an urgent need to map the contributory factors including critical environmental factors and hereditary reasons that influence excessive weight starting very early in life of an individual person.
Conducting researches relative to this could be touching on ethical grounds on privacy of health cases, particularly of minors because the subject are children. Thus, full cooperation between and among children, parents and the sufficient education about their participation and the weight of their response are best explained as truthfully as possible. Moreover, protecting the confidentiality of all participants children and parents has to be understood and agreed to avoid future ethical troubles and concerns.
As with other childhood obesity-fighting strategies outlined by government and non-government bodies worldwide, this researcher agrees to other sources that reducing if not totally ending obesity require full concerted efforts by families, schools, communities, government and the private sector (Direc...
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