Prevent Childhood Obesity – The Long Term Effects of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is not a reference to the pleasantly plump babies or the cherub shaped toddlers. The majority of children will begin life with the plumpness we expect to see in babies. These children will grow taller and will lose their "baby fat" as they begin to walk, run, and be more active.

Children that are considered to be obese are the ones who have a BMI (Body Mass Index) that is greater than 80% is considered to be obese. This means that a child who weighs more than eighty percent of their peers who are of the same height, age, and gender, is overweight.

A lot of people say that it is okay to be overweight before puberty because as a person reaches puberty they will automatically begin to lose the excess pounds. This does happen to some people, but it is not what happens to all people. A youngster that is considered to be obese is 70% more apt to be obese when they become an adult.

The longterm effects of childhood obesity can be broken down into physical and mental effects. The longterm effects of childhood obesity can physically shorten the life expectancy of the individual, and can reduce the quality of life the individual is expected to have. Mentally the obesity can cause great unhappiness in the individual's life.

Physical Effects caused by Obesity include (but are not limited to):

• Hypertension (high blood pressure)

• Type II Diabetes

• Heart disease such as coronary artery disease

• Gallbladder problems such as gall-stones

• Osteoarthritis (a deterioration of the cartilage and bone that the joints of the body are made of)

• Breast cancer

• Colon cancer

• Kidney cancer

• Liver cancer

• Strokes

• High cholesterol

• Sleep apnea

• Breathing difficulties

• Premature death

• Back pain

• Difficulties in becoming pregnant, problems in menstruation

• Yeast infections

The mental health issues that are caused by excessive amounts of weight include (but are not limited to)

Depression

• Anxiety

• Low self-esteem

• Mood disorders and suicidal thoughts

• embarrassment

Being overweight does not just affect a person's physical and mental state, it affects their quality of life. Some of the life altering effects of this condition include (but are not limited to):

• An inability to walk without pain and discomfort. This pain and discomfort may include pain in the joints, the back, or difficulty breathing.

• Difficulty finding clothing to fit

• The inability to sit in some chairs. Most chairs that are in public places are designed to hold someone who weighs 250 lbs or less. An obese person may not be able to fit into the chairs in restaurants and waiting rooms.

• Seatbelts in vehicles may not properly fit around the obese individual

• Obese individuals may have to pay for 2 seats on an airplane or a bus when they travel

• They may have difficulties finding bathroom scales that will weigh them

• They are often lonely because of their lack of self-esteem, and their social embarrassment

All of the longterm effects of excessive weight create an increased amount of medical cost in the United States and around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control $ 190.2 billion dollars are spent each year in the United States alone treating obesity related illnesses. That breaks down to being 21% of the money spent each year by the US on medical related issues is money spent because of obesity. The CDC.gov estimates that 14 billion of those dollars are spent treating medical conditions suffered by children who are obese.

The only way for obesity to be stopped is for it to never start. Everyone needs to be concerned about this problem so things will change. Some of the things that could be done to stop this epidemic include (but are not limited to)

• Increased education for parents and guardians

• Changes in foods that are offered at popular restaurants where children frequently eat

• A campaign to promote physical activity for young people and decrease the amount of time they send watching television and playing video games

• Insurance companies that offer reduced rates to families who fit within the proper BMI chart for their ages, genders, and heights

It is going to take a community effort to make the changes necessary to stop this condition from killing so many people prematurely.

5 Ways The Let's Move Campaign Will End Childhood Obesity

Michelle Obama, First Lady since January 2009, has been putting her time in office to good use. Starting with conversations over a White House garden, she has launched the Let's Move campaign – taking on the mission of ending childhood obesity in America in one generation. Hardly a modest goal, having all children reach adulthood at a normal weight will take continued, comprehensive action by all sectors of society. To that end, Let's Move addresses parents, children, elected officials, schools, community leaders, and health care providers – every branch of society – to ensure that everyone is doing their part.

Educating about Childhood Obesity

Before anyone will be motivated to take action, they need to understand that there is a reason to do so. The first way Ms. Obama's campaign targets apathy is simply educating the public about the desperate place we are in. Consider these alarming statistics:

The past 30 years have seen a tripling in obese children in America, such that today 1 in 3 minors are overweight (too much weight for height) or obese (too much body fat for height), and, in fact, 1 in 3 Americans . It is estimated that Americans today eat nearly a third more calories per day than they did in 1960, including alarming amounts of fats and sugars. Such a drastic change can't help but damage the body. The risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, asthma, and many other conditions is known to increase with obesity.

We can no longer pretend this is an individual issue. With an epidemic of obesity among our children, we all need to take responsibility for creating a healthier environment. But instead of being overwhelmed by that responsibility, the Let's Move campaign presents clear, achievable steps to make a healthy future possible.

Start Eating Healthy

After educating about the problem, the Let's Move campaign educates the public on the solution. The first step in a healthier lifestyle is figuring out how to eat correctly. The disturbing trends of the last decades stem from radical differences in how we eat and what we eat. Not only are portion sizes out of control, but people are also often ignorant of the quality (or poor quality) of the food they are eating. In short, people don't know what is good for them. And if adults aren't informed, children are even less so. However, information is now more available than ever and it is the parents 'and caregivers' responsibility to get informed and pass that information on to the next generation.

The Food and Drug Administration, the government agency that regulates the food industry, requires most prepared food distributors (canned, boxed, bagged) to label their products with the nutritional information label that lists serving size, caloric content, and a wealth of other information . In 2009, Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg announced some new initiatives for the FDA, including sending warning letters to companies that misrepresent their products and working with the food industry to introduce front-of-package labeling that will allow consumers to make healthy choices even more easily.

While labels help families be more informed about the food they consume at home, the fact of the matter is most people eat a large percentage of food outside the house. Whether from restaurants, schools, snack shops, or vending machines, a lot of food does not come packaged with reliable information. But that is no longer an excuse. The US Department of Agriculture's website provides clear and comprehensive information on the new Food Pyramid (updated from the old grains-on-the-bottom model adults may be familiar with), which outlines the components of a balanced day of meals. Unlike the old version, Food Pyramid 2.0 includes the importance of exercise and re-apportions the servings per day for each category of food. That website and hundreds of others that provide information on quality food put making healthy choices well within the reach of all Americans.

Along with educating kids and families on how to eat right, the Let's Move campaign aims to make a tangible difference by helping schools lead the way. With school budgets tight across the nation, more and more junk food has made its way into the public school system and our children's bodies, generally because it is cheap, convenient, and long-lasting. However, when the long-term costs of obesity are factored in (higher health care costs), cutting corners during childhood is no longer a viable option. School administrators and parents need to get involved and change the choices in schools so kids can learn better while they're in school and live better while they're not.

Getting People Active

Along with learning what to put into our bodies, Americans need to learn how to use their bodies to keep them in top form. The USDA claims children and teenagers should get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, while adults should have at least 30 on a regular basis. Most Americans are not living up to those standards, and to some they seem unreachable. However, getting ample exercise into a day is only a matter of conflict. The average American child (8-18) spends 7.5 hours DAILY on entertainment media. The Let's Move campaign means to change that by activating families, schools, and communities.

Each family's schedule and lifestyle are different, so building in more activity will look different in each case. For one family it may be deciding to walk to any place that's less than a mile from home; for another, it might be a family tradition of four-square in the driveway. Opportunities to be active can become fun and build family togetherness. Do jumping jacks in the morning in your PJs, dance around the kitchen to your favorite songs, bike to the park, or see who can swing higher on the swings. Kids love being active, and they love it even more if they get to spend quality time with their parents. But even if you can't get the kid away from a screen, entertainment media has plenty of active options as well. Nintendo's Wii Fit, or the popular Dance Dance Revolution, or even simple YouTube videos like Exercise with Daniel can get children up and active without their even knowing it.

Of course, much of children's days are spent at school, so schools are also responsible for building movement into the schedule, along with educating students on its importance. Making physical education a priority, allowing time for recess, extending and supporting after-school sports, and even incorporating physicality in the academic curriculum are all ways schools can help students be their healthiest selves. There is more research every day that establishes the benefit of movement on learning – a healthy body makes a healthy brain.

Communities can encourage citizens to live healthy lives by building an infrastructure that supports it. Bike paths, parks, safe routes to and from schools, activity centers, and youth programs make exercise convenient and attractive. Initiatives that make membership on teams cheaper, offer scholarships for athletic involvement, or educate disadvantaged students on opportunities in the area can all have positive impacts on children's lives.

Helping People Take Action

Because change can be overwhelming, Let's Move has outlined "5 Simple Steps to Success" for every group it seeks to educate: parents, children, elected officials, schools, community leaders, health care providers, and even chefs.

For example, the five steps for chefs are the following:

1) Join Chefs Move to Schools initiative. This step encourages chefs to "adopt" a school and work within it to educate students, families, and administrators about nutritious options and exciting new foods. The Let's Move website helps chefs find schools (and schools chefs) with an interactive searchable map.

2) Take on the HealthierUS School Challenge. Once a school has been adopted, chefs can help schools apply to be a HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSCC) School by meeting various criteria. The USDA: Food and Nutrition Services site outlines the incentives offered to schools that meet the requirements.

3) Learn about child nutrition programs. In order to be effective in adopting a school, chefs can educate themselves about current child nutrition programs and evaluate what can be improved.

4) Prep for the classroom. In coming alongside a school, a chef needs to ask good questions about what the school's goals are and what its current production is. Where is food coming from? What kind of equipment does the kitchen have? Does the menu need an overhaul?

5) Find recipes for success. Recipes for Success are innovative ideas that have worked well. Whether a chef gets them from somewhere else or thinks them up himself, sharing ideas across the country can only help us build healthier schools faster.

Joining People Together

Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign sounds like an amazing idea. But that is all it will ever be if Americans don't take it personally and seriously. To ensure it becomes a movement and not just a motto, there are clear ways to get involved. Along with following the action steps on the action step page, every citizen is invited to take the Let's Move pledge and get email updates, join a Let's Move Meetup regionally to plan activities and strategize locally, and join the partnership for a healthier America, which focuses on mobilizing leadership across sectors to lead the way to health. Anyone can join the conversation on Facebook, as well

The Let's Move campaign is a call to action against childhood obesity that cannot be ignored. In the words of the pledge,

"We believe every kid has the right to a healthy childhood. We can't let this be the first generation in our history to grow up less healthy than their parents. The ingredients … better food + more activity … are clear . Let's Move isn't just noble, it's a necessity. It's not just a slogan, it's our responsibility. "

Childhood Obesity: The Overlooked Epidemic

Community health is a very important topic that gets overlooked by both citizens and politicians. We put our trust into government officials to find cures and solutions to our health issues, but fail to look at the source of these issues. If we want to make a change in community health we must look at the core of the problem and focus more on primary prevention rather than tertiary prevention techniques. With the majority of our community health issues being preventable diseases, in order to prevent them we must eradicate the cause.

Childhood obesity is constantly on the rise and we have failed to do anything about it. Of course there have been numerous attempts to reduce the obesity rate in children but these attempts are more focused on secondary and tertiary prevention. We are focusing too much on reversing the effects of obesity and not enough time on preventing obesity in the first place. If we inform our community of the health risks that they are entering when they are obese we can teach them how they can prevent it. We must target the parents and not the children. Parents are the source of food for children and at a young age they must be properly feed and active so that these preventable diseases do not occur later on in life. Physical education in school must be more active and less optional. We must actually teach physical education rather than allow students to roam freely among themselves and choose whether or not they will be active.

A child is unable to make life decisions surrounding their health and as adults we should be assuring the children in our communities are in their best health. Poor communities are just as capable of living healthy lifestyles are middle class but without the understanding of how to do so, they will reason their lack of health to their financial standings. Community leaders must provide options for parents to seek out in order to keep their children healthy. Community health groups, activities, or even a park would be helpful. If we can get our kids out of the house and into the yard we are making progress. By lowering childhood obesity, we are able to prevent the likelihood of strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers, and heart diseases. All of these major issues are linked to obesity and there has to be something done to lower our rates. Obesity has risen from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2012. That is not a good ladder to be climbing with our generations to come. About 1/3 of Americans including adults are obese and this is even more overwhelming. The problem lies in people not knowing that they are obese or thinking that obesity is just a word that more fit people call less fit people. We must explain to people why they are classified as obese and the health risks that are associated with obesity. Most people hear obesity and think of it as an insult. We fear telling others that they are obese because it sounds hurtful and parents despise being told that their child is obese. The truth of the matter is obesity is here and is rising. There is no way to sugarcoat the facts. We can continue to act as if it is not an important issue and the rates will continue to increase as the years go on. Children should not have high blood pressure, or any other disease associated with overweight. This issue will not change until we start to make it a priority. I believe this to be the most important issue in our community health because people fear the outcome of bringing childhood obesity up around the parents. It is also critical to point out that you don't have to be rich or extremely wealthy to eat healthier foods and be active. Parents should be more involved in their children's lives and encourage them to be more active on a day to day basis. Restrict TV time and increase time spent outside. Maker better food choices when feeding your kids. Teach parents the importance of nutrition and fitness and why it should matter to them.

These are ways in which we can help make a turnaround in our communities for the better. We must focus on the now and not the later. When flu season comes around we get flu shots weeks before the virus is actually being accounted for. We vaccinate because it prevents us from getting the flu. It does no good to get a flu shot once you are infected with the flu virus. Just as this is true so is it for obesity. We must take the necessary steps before hand to prevent the disease from affecting our children.