The study found that overweight children or those likely to be overweight tended to incur more medical expenses than non-overweight children (Johnson 2006). Socio-economic and demographic differences between them indicated the differences in expenses. In addition to genetics, TV viewing habits, exercises and family eating habits, economists also considered changes in food prices and the reduction of time in physical education in school and its effects. Overall, the risks of adult mortality and morbidity tended to increase on account of obesity in childhood. Overweight children tended to grow into overweight adults and develop poor health conditions. Adult obesity incurs large expenses, according to the study. These expenses did not include those needed for substance abuse and depression. Long-term consequences tended to become visible only in adulthood (Johnson).
Obese children suffer much more from physical ailments and costs. They also lose self-esteem because of their condition. Studies conducted between 1961 and 1968 on 10-11-year-old children showed that obese children were viewed with the least respect and liking. The respondents were given drawings of children who were healthy, with disabilities and obese for ranking or preference (Latner 2003). The obese child was ranked last, even lower than those with serious physical disabilities. Those who did were children from various socio-economic and ethnic groups and those with physical disabilities and disfigurements themselves. Their responses indicated the degree of acceptance and disapproval of obesity. The study used 458 children in the 5th and 6th grades at a suburban middle school in an upper-middle income part of central New Jersey. They were 71% white, 12% Hispanic, 10% Asian, 3% African-American and 2% Native American. The highest or second ranking went to the healthy child at 74.9% and 70% ranked the obese child as the last or second to the last. Analysis of the study revealed strong bias towards the obese child. It recommended not only treatment of obesity but also education, prevention and intervention to decrease negative attitudes towards obese children (Latner).
Quality of Life
The most widespread consequences of childhood obesity could be psychosocial in nature, according to research (Schwimmer and Varni 2003). Obese children would tend to have a lower or poorer quality of life, according to findings. Children and adolescent respondents aged 5 to 18 were surveyed along with obese children. Among them were cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Results showed that obese children and adolescents suffered from impaired health-related quality of life than their healthy counterparts or those diagnosed with cancer. These suggested the need for physicians, parents and teachers to be informed about the risks and consequences of the health-relted quality of life of obese children to improve health conditions (Schwimmer and Varni).
No Quick Fix
Experts from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine said that there could be no "quick fix" to the problem of obesity in children because of its diverse causes (Consumer Comments 2004). But they emphasized the importance of parental involvement in effecting changes in these children's eating habits. The experts also stressed on the significance of the involvement of other sectors in those changes. The food industry must adjust its advertising to discourage poor eating habits. The government should insure safer streets for children's physical activity. Schools should provide more physical education to children. The experts noted that while the home is the most influential setting for children, it was also the least accessible to health intervention
Current lifestyles and lack of time for healthful meal preparation and lack of physical activity have been identified as causes of obesity in children. Attempts to cross these barriers without the need to preach to parents and stigmatize obese children have failed. And government approaches have been viewed as heavy-handed and, therefore, unproductive or even counterproductive in effecting eating habits in affected children (Consumer Comments).
Another group of more than 700 experts from diverse fields met in June 2005 to come out with environmental solutions to obesity in America's young people (Hood 2005). Non-governmental initiatives were presented and discussed. One of these was the Kaiser Permanente, which focused on prevention by training 1,000 pediatricians and family physicians who would promote physical activity and dietary change. It also linked up with other anti-obesity groups through its Health Eating, Active Living or HEAL program. Girls on the Run was a 12-week program for third to fifth-grade girls, which provided life skills development and lessons to help reduce or prevent obesity. One lesson was the five-kilometer run. Founded in 1996 by Molly Baker, the program at last counting had 50,000 girl participants and has been active in 120 U.S. And Canadian cities (Hood).
Pati Miller of the Children Now child advocacy organization pointed to interactive marketing in the media as the latest threat contributing to obesity in children (Hood 2005). The threat often comes in the form of "advergames," which are online games during TV shows promoting unhealthy foods as part of the games. The organization lobbied at the Communications Commission to ban this children's television programming. For its part, Sesame Street, a vastly popular children's show, launched Healthy Habits for Life. It was incorporated into all of its media outlets to promote healthy eating habits as critical to early development as learning to read and write. On the other hand, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company recognized the profitability of offering nutritious and healthful products. Ellen Taaffe, vice president of marketing for health and wellness, said that 40% of the company's portfolio consisted of health-oriented products. She mentioned the Smart Spot program as one of the company's initiatives aiming at instilling healthy food choices (Hood).
Stonyfield Farm, the largest producer of organic yogurt, launched the first organic and healthy vending machines for schools in collaboration with the schools themselves (Hood 2005). She added that there were 32 such machines in schools in seven States at that time and 930 in the waiting list. State efforts have also taken off in California and North Carolina through large-scale programs, like "Active Living." "Active Living" by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was introduced in 25 cities to increase physical activity. Another program was "America on the Move," which encouraged people of all ages to increase the amount of walking and decrease caloric intake. This combination of approaches was aimed at preventing weight gain and improving overall health. A number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation, launched the "Safe Routes to School" program to insure safe walking and biking in school. New tools, new measures and new methods were introduced to more reliably evaluate the connection between the environment and obesity. These included the quality and availability of healthful foods and the types of food outlets in schools and neighborhoods. These steps were aimed at providing more data to evaluate the effectiveness of obesity treatment prevention programs. A major National Institute of Health initiative, "Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition" or We Can!, was also launched. It was designed to encourage good food choices, increased physical activity and less television and computer games for children 8 to 13 years old. The message was that taking simple steps would be the best approach to treatment and prevention of the health problem. Those behind these programs were of the opinion that modifying certain aspects of the environment could at least reduce and at best eliminate the looming epidemic in 5 to 10 years (Hood).
Prevention study conducted in February 2002 used four focus groups from various areas in Saipan, in identifying genetic and environmental factors leading to childhood obesity (Bruss et al. 2003). These factors were socio-cultural perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and behavior connected with child feeding and weight normalcy. Saipan is the capital of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, known for its high obesity rates with these characteristics. The focus groups included 32 primary caregivers of 6 to 10-year-olds from different ethnic populations in Saipan. Investigation fund that there was conflict among primary caregivers on socio-cultural values on feeding. These included family expectations and traditional dietary beliefs, attitudes and knowledge on food and disease. Mothers were the primary caregivers in the groups. They expressed uneasiness when their practices were inconsistent with cultural food values. They believed that individual characteristics determined the weight of their children. These included genetics, physiology and metabolism. Overweight was less acceptable to Filipino families than to Micronesian families who associated thinness with illness. Moreover, feeding was considered a gesture of love, generosity and care in Micronesia. The incidence of type 2 diabetes in the region, however, created greater interest in the connection between diet and disease. The study found that primary caregivers reinforce their own cultural values on diet and weight and that conflict resulted from this collision of values. Furthermore, the lack of awareness on the connection produced stress in the primary caregivers. This further led to personal, intergenerational and intra-familial conflict and, ultimately, ineffective child feeding practices and childhood obesity (Bruss et al.)
Prevention, thus, becomes a preference and a high priority (MacKenzie…