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Preventing Child Obesity: A Review of Literature

Diana Villagrana
University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Child obesity has been a massive issue for the past couple of years in America, it
is a threat to our society and it only keeps growing. Americans need to step up to the
plate and help prevent this issue from emerging. Many parents are unaware at the harm
they are causing their child if he or she is not involved in the childs health life. Children
may be scared for life with having to be careful because of health risks they will soon
develop when they reach adulthood.
The purpose of this literature review is to define what obesity really means and
focusing on the importance of parent involvement in this situation, and to reveal ways in
which this issue can be prevented in the future.

Preventing Child Obesity: A Review of Literature

About one in three American kids is overweight or obese. Obesity has become a
massive concern in our society. Numbers have risen all over the world and are rapidly
affecting children as well. It is important to understand that children who become obese
at an early age are most likely to be obese as adults, if not, will most likely suffer many
complications in the future. Children who are overweight are most likely to be unhappy
as well, which could potentially lead to depression.
The importance of researching child obesity is to make a change, and help
decrease the numbers. Simply knowing the answers to the following questions can do
this:

1. How obese are American children?


2. What are the factors that may cause a child to be overweight?
3. How do parents play a role in child obesity?
4. What complications will overweight children have in the near future?

How obese are American children?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), child obesity is now the
No. 1 concern among parents in the United states, toping drunk abuse and smoking
(2015). Americans do not realize when a child is overweight nowadays because it is so
common already. One important question when talking about obesity is: What is
considered overweight in America? It all depends on the weight and height. AHA states
the percentage of children from the ages 2-19 that are obese . . . using the 95th percentile

or higher of body mass index (BMI) values on the CDC growth chart:
For non-Hispanic whites, 17.5 percent of males and 14.7 percent of females.
For non-Hispanic blacks, 22.6 percent of males and 24.8 percent of females.
For Mexican Americans, 28.9 percent of males and 18.6 percent of females
(2015).
America is known for their growing fast food industries. There are food ads all
over the cities such as: billboards, commercials, radios, social media, etc. With food
being available anywhere, it is almost impossible for Americans to refuse. Fast food is
one of the main reasons Americans are becoming obese, and unfortunately, it is
affordable enough for parents to grab a meal for their child after school.
The American Diabetes Association mentions in their article that in America
there are fewer opportunities for exercise, and in many places, no bike paths, sidewalks,
or easily accessible stairways. They also bring up how not so wealthy communities may
be harmed a bit more when grocery stores . . . may be poorly stocked with healthy fruits
and vegetables, and such neighborhoods may not be safe enough to get out and walk
around in. Lastly, they mention one very important detail: people from all economic
backgrounds often eat for social, cultural, and emotional reasonsnot just for hunger.
Economy plays a huge role in child obesity as well. There are many families in our
country that cannot afford a healthy diet.

Does depression come into play when discussing child obesity?

Obesity and depression, conditions which have until recently been considered
adult health problems, are now recognized as common conditions among youths
(Reeves, 2008). Depression can be caused by many different situations. When a child
has a low self-esteem, they are more likely to feel neglected and anti-social. This can
quickly turn into depression. Todays society can be very cruel at times. Specially when
talking about school. Many times, children are bullied and harassed for their appearance,
race, color, etc.
Lindsey Averill talks about her experience as an overweight child in a short
article. She mentioned how she would get made fun of in gym class. Lindsey . . . asked
if [she] could change in the bathroom and [her] gym teacher told [her] to grow a thicker
skin or do something about [her] size. This came from an adult, and it is an issue that
should not be happening. Lindsey lastly says:
I went home and cried about my experiences in gym regularly. I begged my
parents to write me notes about sprained ankles or other gym-excusing injuries. I
felt tortured and traumatized. I felt hated and cast as a loser. I was a kid and they
were adults. It was their job to protect me from torture, not be complicit in it.
(2008).
This comes to show that being overweight is not happy feeling.
Once a child is depressed, many problems arise. The child could have trouble
sleeping, being social, but most importantly, the child may intake even more food. In
Reeves article, Childhood Obesity and Depression: Connection between these Growing
Problems in Growing Children, she mentions how In depression, increased appetite does
not always result in increased food intake, although presumably increased hunger may

result in greater emotional distress if an individual feels deprived of food intake needed to
achieve feeling of satiety. Some children find foo to be their reason to feel happy, and
that should not be a goal for future Americans.

How do parents play a role in child obesity?


Parent involvement is crucial when talking about obesity. A parent needs to
constantly check their childs body weight and height to make sure they are staying close
to average. If a parent has a child who is obese they should be motivating their child to
eat better and be more active.
Extra curricular activities are a great way to keep a child active. Most parents do
not see that letting their child play on their phones, tablets, or sit in their rooms playing
video games is doing more harm than good. Children should be out engaging in outdoor
activities such as: football, baseball, dancing, gymnastics, basketball, etc. All are great
ways to keep children energetic and will also improve their social skills and selfconfidence. It will keep the child healthy and in shape. Having a child in extra curricular
activities does not mean that a parent should just drop them off and come back when
practice is done. A parent should be a childs number one fan; their biggest cheerleader.
It is little actions like the few mentioned in this paper that will demonstrate to the
child that their health matters. Parent involvement is another huge social issue. A
difference can be made in the sake of this generations children. These children are the
future. All children deserve to be happy, to live a healthy life, and have parents that
support, help, and encourage them to reach those goals. By being involved, a parent is

showing their child your health matters and you are important to me, and there is no
greater gift than developing and improving the bond between a parent and their child.
It has not necessarily been proven that genetics plays a role in obesity. When
people say that children with obese parents are mostly likely to be overweight as well, it
is not completely true. If a parent wants better eating and lifestyle habits for their child,
they will come into play and make sure their children do not fall under the same
footsteps. If every parent were to think this way, it would eventually help his or her own
health as well! UTEP student, Diana Villagrana, started a survey asking parents (around
her neighborhood and even at her nieces elementary school), Did you know that a child
who is overweight, or even slightly overweight, is depressed? She asked this certain
question, because although it is common sense, some parents are too blind to understand.
Nineteen out of 25 parents said yes the other 6 said they were not aware. It is obvious
that out of the 19 who said yes, not all were being honest. A parent thinks buying their
child candies and happy meals is making them happy. Even with toddlers, sometimes the
best way to stop them from crying is giving them sweets, but little do parents know they
are only doing harm to their child.

Parents should practice a


healthy lifestyle with their children
from the beginning as shown in the
picture to the right. If a child grows
up learning healthy eating habits as a

toddler, they will eventually become used to it. Children who go up until the age of 13
and are obese are now open to future health risks.

What complications will overweight children have in the future?

It is important to understand
that children who are overweight

Figure 1. Image retrieved from


http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/news/childhoodobesity-prevention-program-helps-parents-loseweight/article/390924/

may have a hard time trying to lose it. Even then, if the child eventually loses their
weight, they may still suffer some types of complications when they are older. The AHA
says, Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that
previously werent seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2
diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels. There are also psychological effects:
Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression
(2015).
As mentioned before, depression ties in well with child obesity, but it can be
resolved in the future. What cannot be resolved are the health complications that a child
will be welcomed to when they reach adulthood. Obese adults who suffer high blood
pressure and diabetes always need to be checking up on themselves, and being
CAREFUL. Who cants to live a life where they have to be careful all the time? Its not a
fun way of living, especially in America where people love to be around their loved ones
and enjoy their families. Spreading awareness to prevent child obesity will increase
everyones health, and elongate his or her lives.

References
American Heart Association. (August 2014). Overweight in Children. Retrieved from
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesit
y/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.VviNpMeYVUQ
Clinical Advisor. (January 5, 2015). Child obesity prevention programs benefit parents,
too. Retrieved from http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/news/childhood-obesityprevention-program-helps-parents-lose-weight/article/390924/
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2013). Early Child Care Obesity
Prevention Recommendations: Complete List. Retrieved from
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-prevention/earlychild-care/early-child-care-obesity-prevention-recommendation-complete-list/
Marks, B. Jennifer. (January 2004). Obesity in America: Its Getting Worse. Retrieved
from http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/22/1/1.full
Obesity Action Coalition. What is Childhood Obesity? Retrieved from
http://www.obesityaction.org/understanding-obesity-in-children/what-ischildhood-obesity
Reeves, M. Gloria., Postolache, T. Teodoro., & Snitker Soren. (August 1, 2008).
Childhood Obesity and Depression: Connection between these Growing Problems
in Growing Children. Retrieved from
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568994/
Seidman, Bianca. (June 29, 2016). Doctors: Childhood obesity prevention must start
sooner. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/doctors-childhoodobesity-prevention-start-sooner/