Childhood Obesity: A Global Epidemic

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic that is increasinglystriking more children and adolescents and governments throughoutthe world are beginning to take steps to put an end to itsgrowth.

To combat this epidemic in the U.S., the National Heart, Lungand Blood Institute in collaboration with the National Recreationand Parks Association has introduced a nationwide program called”Hearts N’ Parks.”  Through parks andrecreation departments and community organizations, this programoffers activities for children and adults that promote”healthy lifestyle choices.”  In addition, schoolsnationwide are introducing more healthy food choices in cafeteriasand vending machines, such as schools in New York, North Carolinaand Washington State.  Intramural sports and recess in U.S.schools also encourage physical activity.

In England, the Royal College of GeneralPractitioners is proposing that money spent on sports and exercisebe tax deductible in an effort to make exercise more accessible andaffordable.

U.S. college students voice concerns about thefood quality and choices offered at their schools. 

Sophomore Nate Smith at Prairie View A & MUniversity in Texas offered a disheartening opinion about hisschool’s cuisine. 

“If you eat at school, you are moreprone to eat unhealthy.  Most of it is junk or unhealthy likehigh in cholesterol,” he stated.  Loren Perkins-Johnson,a junior at Howard University in Washington, DC felt agreed thatthere is room for improvement in regards to the choices of foodsoffered at his university diners.

Baylor University (Waco, Texas) sophomoreMonica Williams stated that too many fried foods are offered byon-campus food services.  She said, by offering such a limitedamount of good tasting, healthy foods, “they are contributingto obesity in America, and encouraging wrong eatinghabits.”

Currently in the U.S., one in every fivechildren is overweight.  According to National Health andNutrition Examination Surveys, in 2000, 15.3 percent of childrenaged six to 11 and 15.5 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 wereoverweight and nearly an additional 15 percent of children andadolescents were at risk for becoming overweight. 

Globally, this condition is affecting asignificant amount of children and adolescents. 

In Southern Europe, 20 to 35 percent ofchildren are overweight versus 10 to 20 percent in NorthernEurope.  Earlier this year, the International Obesity TaskForce stated that based on data from a 2001/2002 Health Surveyconducted in England, more than one in four English children areoverweight and six to seven percent are obese. 

In South Africa, a developing country, 25percent of 13 to 19 year old girls are overweight compared to sevenpercent of boys in the country.

Childhood obesity and overweight can havedetrimental effects.  Overweight children are 70 percent morelikely to become overweight adults.  Being overweight cantrigger certain health disorders including type 2 diabetes, highblood pressure, sleep apnea (interrupted breathing while sleeping),orthopedic problems, liver disease, and asthma.  It can alsocontribute to mental ailments, such as low self-esteem anddepression.