Childhood Obesity Policy Brief
Obesity is an emerging concern both in the United States and around the globe. What is more worrying is the fact that in recent times it has shown the propensity to affect children just like the adult population. According to Ogden, Carroll, Kit, and Flegal (2014), in a report on the prevalence of childhood and adulthood obesity in the United States, more than one-third of the children in the country are either overweight or obese (p. 2). Globally, about 42 million children under the age of five are deemed to be overweight with about 75% of them emanating from developing countries (World Health Organization (WHO), 2016, para. 1). Ogden et al. (2014) further note that the figure concerning childhood obesity has more than quadrupled since the 1970s and 80s (p. 6). Such a sudden rise is attributable to the changing socioeconomic conditions in modern times, and it is important to note that urgent measures need to be taken to reverse this trend. This paper, therefore, proposes tools, which, if implemented at the policy level, can result in a drastic drop in the childhood obesity level not only in America but also across the globe.
The WHO (2016) claims that the primary cause of the increasing childhood obesity level is the shift in the nature of children’s diet to the enhanced intake of energy-rich food that contains a great amount of sugars and fats but has few vitamins and other minerals. The specialists from the organization also assert that, unlike in the past, children of today lead sedentary lifestyles (Goldfield et al., 2011). Thus, the measures to decrease childhood obesity need to be taken from two fronts. The first one concerns the nature of foods consumed, and the second is about making children to increase their physical activity. The first recommendation is to provoke immediate decrease in the marketing of children’s foods and non-alcoholic beverages that are rich in fats and sugars. Second, the production of video games should be regulated or reduced in order to prompt more children to involve themselves in physical activities.
Lifestyle diseases such as obesity have been a concern for adults only for a long time. Even among grownups, very few were at the risk group because most of them practiced physical activities that led to exhaustion. Children were never predisposed to this disease because of the active nature of lifestyles at home and school. At home, they spent more time helping their parents or playing physical games with their fellows. At school, most of them actively participated in competitive sports, and it was fashionable to be a sportsman. Currently, the life is very different. Technology has revolutionized many things including the foods that children consume and the activities, in which they participate. Thanks to technology, the video game industry is a booming one due to the high demand on its products. Children can play football, tennis, basketball, and any other game looking on their screens while seating in the living rooms (Jordan & Robinson, 2008). Technology has also enabled marketers to bring unhealthy foods closer to children. They use very enticing advertisements on the TV and in the other telecommunication media to promote products that are rich in sugars and fats. The regulation of these aspects is likely to lead to the marked improvement in the rates of obesity.
Since childhood obesity is a modern day challenge, it has disproportionately affected the children e across the globe. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015), the incidences of obesity vary in children of diverse ages. Only 8.4% of them aged 2-5 years have obesity. Also, 17.7% of those who is between 6 and 11 years have the condition while 20.5% of children who are 12-19 years are obese (CDC, 2015, para. 1). The general trend is an upward meaning that the more they age, the more they are likely to be obese. It also means that the influence of unhealthy foods marketing as well as video games use becomes more intense with age. The incidences of obesity also vary among children of different racial origins. With prevalence rate of 22.4%, Hispanics show the highest level of childhood obesity; then follow the black and whites holding 20.2% and 14.1% from the general figure respectively (CDC, 2015, para. 4). Hispanic children are more vulnerable compared to others. The older children are also at a higher risk than the younger ones.
The Federal Trading Commission (FTC) is the agency that is responsible for food advertisements. Its general mission is the protection of American consumers, and one of the ways, in which it achieves this, is ensuring that food manufacturers correctly label their products for consumers to have perfect knowledge (FTC, n.d.). The ESRB agency, a creation of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), regulates the video games production. Its mission is to “empower parents to make the right decisions on the appropriateness of video games for children while holding video games creators accountable for responsible marketing practices” (ESRB, n.d.). These agencies should have the power to control the nature of children’s food advertisements as well as the rates of uptake of video games among children stricter.
Since obesity is a health challenge that touches the society, there is always a chance to apply one-size-fits-all approach to handle it. The conventional solutions include physical activity promotion that involves exercising and consumption of foods low in fats and sugars (Haskell, Blair, & Hill, 2009). Although these solutions are viable, they are not very effective on children. For instance, it makes very little sense to take a three years old child to gym while all his/her meals comprise of junk products, which are rich in fats. Goldfield et al. (2011) agree that the video games are among the factors that significantly contribute to childhood obesity problem. The research also notes that there is a direct relationship between video gaming and conditions such as blood pressure and obesity. It recommends the reducing of gaming duration to lower the risk. Harris, Pomeranz, Lobstein, and Brownell (2009) in their research assert that the attractive packaging and advertising of junk foods increase their desirability among children. Such foods increase the likelihood of weight gain, which, in turn, raises the risk of getting obesity. Thus, it is important to find a solution that is specific to childhood obesity and counters its main causes such as the ones proposed in the paragraph.
Childhood obesity is a threat to the continuity of humanity existence. If more children become obese, more diseases that previously affected only the aged such as blood pressure and diabetes have the influence on them. The last will decrease their quality of life, and many people will die young. A society without children or youth simply lacks a future. This policy brief proposes the reduction of the advertising of unhealthy children’s foods. It also suggests more stringent regime in the gaming industry to dissuade young people from overindulging and shift their attention to active games. The FTC and ESRB should be granted more powers to be able to regulate these aspects.