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September 23, 2021

Kysha Rooks: September is National Childhood Obesity Month

Obesity is a prevalent global issue, especially among the children in today’s incredibly fast-paced society characterized by digital devices, junk food, and physical inactivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2021) estimates that between 2017 and 2018, 19.3% of children and adolescents in the United States suffered from obesity. The prevalence of childhood obesity calls for more awareness and preventive measures.

Certain behavioral, genetic, and environmental factors influence weight, the excess of which may lead to obesity. Dietary preferences such as sugary snacks, sweetened beverages, and nutrient-deficient fast foods are less filling. Therefore, they tend to be consumed quickly and in large amounts. The high caloric intake coupled with a sedentary lifestyle leads to excessive fat stored in the body, which causes obesity. Tackling these behavioral factors can help in the fight against the condition.

Obesity can affect a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological health adversely. Medical conditions that can arise include fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, orthopaedic problems, and various types of cancer. In addition, obese children are likely to suffer from various psychological problems such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders (CDC, 2020). The medical and psychological consequences may interfere with a child’s development and ability to socialize throughout adolescence.

Various interventions by parents, caregivers, and healthcare providers are crucial in the fight against childhood obesity. Parents and caregivers can track the children’s growth and encourage healthy habits. They can also provide their children with healthy, low-calorie, nutritious foods in proper portions to replace fast foods. By ensuring that a child gets the recommended physical activity levels during the day and enough sleep at night, obesity can be prevented (CDC, 2020). Healthcare providers can share nutrition information with parents and track the children’s health indicators such as weight, height, and Body Mass Index (BMI) (CDC, 2020). The collective efforts will boost the preventive measures against obesity.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem affecting today’s society. The war against the condition can be won by involving the entire community, including private citizens and health departments. By eliminating the causal factors and creating awareness about the problem, the epidemic can be stopped in its tracks.

Kysha Rooks is EFNEP educator for the Rowan County Cooperative Extension.

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