Childhood Obesity Research Paper

by Jason Shaw
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Research on Childhood Obesity

Introduction

Obesity has been graded as chronic of critical significance and has been described as one of things that need to be resolved National Roadmap for Health People 2020. Under the theme ‘Nutrition and Weight Status,’ the purpose was to ‘promote wellbeing and minimise the risk of chronic disease by the intake of nutritious diets and the achievement and maintenance of healthy body weights’ (Healthy People 2020, n.d., par. 1). Its importance and priority for the country to track this persistent condition and to explore ways to solve it is expressed in the following objectives: 19-3c. Reduce the proportion of overweight or obese children and teens and 19-2. Reduce the number of individuals who are obese (Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), n.e.s). Current study must first define the scale and nature of the problem, the basic case and the reasoning for the assertion, prior to the review of the data collection method and the presentation of the findings of the research. In this regard, the purpose of the paper is to discuss key issues related to lifestyle changes linked to technological advances and how they have contributed to the spread of child obesity.

Scope and Nature of the Problem

Obesity in childhood, youth and adults is regarded a concern in the United States. Advances in technology have led to drastic changes in human dietary habits around the globe. However, as countries become more developed in terms of economic status, the greater the availability and affordability of endless food choices that individuals, especially children, can create. Almost one in three children in America suffering from obesity alone (American Heart Association, 2011, par. 1). Lifestyle changes may be related to child obesity as a major cause.

Childhood Obesity Research Paper

Specific Claim

Among the multiple factors of child obesity, the change in lifestyle due to technological advancements is thought to be one of the most important. Parents are often criticised for not giving special attention to their offspring and typically ignore their child’s eating patterns. Although this definitely has certain harmful consequences on youth, it is certainly not the most significant factor of the rise in infant obesity. The key suspect is the technical transition that has affected all aspects of global life. From the invention of tablets to third-generation video games, both of these developments have contributed to the focus of children in front of their personal devices and have driven them away from physical fitness and regular outdoor exercises.

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The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stressed the significance of physical exercise in the prevention of diseases, particularly chronic diseases such as obesity. According to the report, “regular physical activity has been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality due to many chronic diseases” (US DHHS, 2002, 2). Technology advances also led children to stay much of the day in front of a television screen, tablet or other technological tools and devices.

Justification of Claim

Various reports of factors contributing to obesity have shown in Medicine Net that race, youth weight and hormones both have an effect on being obese. Statistics and knowledge from AHA show that childhood obesity has important consequences for elevated blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high blood cholesterol levels. There are also social effects: obese children are more vulnerable to low self-esteem, poor body confidence and depression (AHA, n.d., par. 2). Burke’s arguments say that “technology and childhood obesity are closely related because we have now become accustomed to having our eyes glued to the computer screen or television screen and are otherwise taken up with different forms of electronic entertainment” (2011, par. 1). Present research therefore seeks to determine the veracity of the association between technology and childhood obesity.

Method of Data Collection

            A wide variety of sources was accessed through the internet. A quick glimpse of the Google search engine on the topic of the link between technology and childhood obesity generates more than 2.6 million results. However, the research was streamlined using secondary authoritative sources for federal or state agencies authorized to address chronic illness, particularly obesity, and from peer reviewed journals and publications. As such, the sources of crucial information about obesity were found from the CDC official website, the Health People site managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and other associations that monitor obesity in children.

Research Findings

So far, the research findings have supported the significant influence of technological developments on the decreased propensity of children to seek physical activities. The BMJ Evidence Center (2011) indicated that “technological advances have led to a decrease of physical activity” (1). This statement was supported by Burke (2011) who averred that due to the technological gadgets of contemporary times: television, computer, and other electronic gadgets, “the new lifestyle that has taken over our children’s lives leaves little time for them to exercise, go out and remain otherwise active and it is far removed from the lifestyle our parents enjoyed many years ago. Along with the sedentary life that our children have become accustomed to, technology and childhood obesity have become closely intertwined and our concern for our health has also taken a backseat as the life in front of the boob-tube continues to take up all of our children’s time at the expense of their health” (par. 2).

In addition, Burke (2011) expounded that “when we and our children sit immobile for hours on end watching television or working on the computer or playing video games, we neglect to exercise and along with a diet consisting of sodas and fast foods are breeding obesity like never before. Thus, technology and childhood obesity are causing our children to eat more, exercise less and live sedentary lifestyles which is a cocktail that only serves up more obese children in our population today” (par. 4).

Due to the findings that clearly supported the role of technology in reducing time spent for physical activities and outdoor games, the Healthy People 2020 clearly stipulated under community interventions the need to implement behavioral interventions through restrictions in screen time of technological gadgets. As indicated, “behavioral interventions to reduce screen time (time spent watching TV, videotapes, or DVDs; playing video or computer games; and surfing the internet) can be single-component or multicomponent and often focus on changing screen time through classes aimed at improving children’s or parents’ knowledge, attitudes, or skills” (The Community Guide, 2011, par. 1).

The National Obesity Observatory (NOO) (2009) has suggested treating childhood obesity through lifestyle change interventions. The recommendations are summarized as follows: (1) using multicomponent interventions; meaning diet plus physical activity; (2) programs must actively involve parents, carers and peer support; (3) interventions must be designed and tailored to the target population, specifically considering sex, age, socio-economic status and ethnicity; (4) programs should have strong theoretical frameworks and logic models; and (5) emphasis must be on encouraging a healthy lifestyle, rather than treating obesity (NOO, 2009, 3 – 4).

In addition to these proposed lifestyle interventions, the NOO provided additional guidelines that consider the following relevant concerns: (1) programs must be regularly evaluated; (2) they should align with government thrusts and recommendations for daily physical activities for children; (3) they should be fun and easy to do and (4) innovative approaches should be examined as long as these are within the defined theoretical framework (NOO, 2009, 4 – 5).

Recommendations

Lifestyle changes, as the term indicates, would require additional time, effort and determination to implement when compared with other interventions to reduce or prevent obesity. However, despite is slower pace, the advantages and benefits that would be generated are more permanent and long term in nature. Especially for children, it is best to apply lifestyle change interventions, in addition to good nutrition and regular physical activities, to ensure that weight reduction would be effective. The diet of overweight children must be monitored in terms of a program recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture (2005) as cited from Health People (n.d.), to wit:

  • “Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods within and across the food groups, especially whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products, and lean meats and other protein sources.
  • Limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, sodium (salt), and alcohol.
  •  Limit caloric intake to meet caloric needs” (USDHHS and USDA, 2005; cited in Health People, n.d., par. 4).

According to Enig and Fallon (n.d.), “politically correct nutrition is based on the assumption that we should reduce our intake of fats, particularly saturated fats from animal sources. Fats from animal sources also contain cholesterol, presented as the twin villain of the civilized diet” (par. 2). The finding validates the need to reduce saturated fat intake in children’s regular diet, as part of lifestyle change.

Further, by making better food choices for children through switching to reduced-fat, nonfat, and healthy fat and by encouraging them to eat more fruits and vegetables, children with weight problems would be redirected towards enhancing awareness on the amount and composition of food that are more beneficial to the body. The secret here actually starts with parents, carers and teachers who should practice what they preach.

The Current Nutritional Recommendations issued by the USDA and published by the Harvard School of Public Health (2011) provided more recommendations that can be beneficial for children as part of lifestyle change interventions focusing in proper nutrition: (1) eat more food from plants; (2) eat more fish; (3) examining protein packages; and (4) replacing bad fats with healthy fats (pars. 9 – 12).  It helps to keep oneself updated on dietary guidelines that are revised depending on new findings of food and nutrition issues that significantly affect weight issues and the overall health condition, not only of children, but of each and every individual.

In addition, the importance of regular exercise and physical activities must be enforced to children to strengthen efforts to reduce obesity, especially when implemented in conjunction to diet.  In a research conducted by Horton and Hill (1998), “exercise alone is of limited use as a primary treatment for obesity” (88). The use of multicomponent interventions are indeed more effective than focusing on only diet, or physical activity, or trying to follow approaches recommended as part of lifestyle changes (limiting the number of hours in front of the television or in front of the computers and finding ways and means to indulge in physical activities through walking, go up and down the stairs or use the stairs instead of the lift, among others.

The Mayo Clinic (2010) emphasized that “the foundation of every successful weight-loss program remains a healthy, calorie-controlled diet combined with exercise. For successful, long-term weight loss, you must make permanent changes in your lifestyle and health habits” (par. 1).

Conclusion

The paper was planned to address important concerns linked to behavioral shifts attributed to technical advances and how they have led to the spread of child obesity. Through secondary sources of information, the contentions that technological advancements through the use of the television, computer and other electronic gadgets has markedly contributed to the decline in children’s ability and preference for physical activities and outdoor endeavors. Due to the alarming statistics gathered in published government reports that monitor obesity in the nation, appropriate interventions were recommended; particularly focusing on lifestyle change and in multi-component programs that require a combination of diet and physical activity to address this chronic illness.

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References
  • American Heart Association (AHA). Overweight in Children.  Retrieved 27 May, 2011. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp>
  • BMJ Evidence Center. (2011). Obesity in Children: Aetiology. Retrieved 04 June 2011. < http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/1085/basics/aetiology.html>
  • Burke, C. (2011). The Connection Between Technology and Childhood Obesity. Retrieved 04 June 2011. < http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Connection-Between-Technology-And-Childhood-Obesity&id=862743>
  • Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC). (n.d.). Healthy People 2010 Leading Health Indicators at a Glance. Retrieved 13 June 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/healthy_people/hp2010/hp2010_indicators.htm>
  • Enig, M. and Fallon, S. (n.d.). The truth about saturated fats. Retrieved 21 June 2011. < http://www.health-report.co.uk/saturated_fats_health_benefits.htm>
  • Harvard School of Public Health. (2011). New U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Progress, Not  Perfection. Retrieved 21 June 2011. < http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/dietary-guidelines-2010/index.html>
  • Healthy People 2020. (n.d.). Nutrition and Weight Status. Retrieved 13 June 2011. <http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=29>
  • Mayo Clinic. (2010). Weight loss: 6 strategies for success. Retrieved 20 June 2011. < http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/HQ01625>
  • Medicine Net. (n.d.) Obesity (Weight Loss). Retrieved 04 June 2011. <http://www.medicinenet.com/obesity_weight_loss/article.htm>
  • National Obesity Observatory (NOO) (2009). Treating childhood obesity through lifestyle change interventions. Retrieved 13 June 2011. <http://www.noo.org.uk/securefiles/110614_0131//RF%20Child_Weight_Management_Services_treatment_paperd_261109%20.pdf>
  • The Community Guide. (2011). Obesity Prevention and Control: Behavioral Interventions to Reduce Screen Time. Retrieved 13 June 2011. < http://www.thecommunityguide.org/obesity/behavioral.html>
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002. Physical Activity Fundamental  to Preventing Disease. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Retrieved 04 June 2011. <http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/physicalactivity/physicalactivity.pdf>

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