Child obesity has become a global health problem and over the past decades, and the prevalence of child obesity has grown significantly. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 170 million children under the age of 18 are obese according to the standard of Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of relative weight based on an individual’s mass and height (1,2).
Not only does this disease bring physical and mental issues to children, it will also lead to other serious diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac diseases when they grow older.
In order to discover the causes of this serious health issue, finding common denominators is necessary. The main cause of such disease may come from the fact that both parents are obese and thus child obesity is a genetic condition. Other cases of child obesity happen in urban areas and is called “disease of richness” (Fu Gui Bing in Chinese), which refers to disease deriving from good living conditions and over-nutrition with energy intense foods but less healthy nutrients. In addition, children who come from a low income family and have inferior socioeconomic status tend to become overweight as they rarely participate in physical exercise but engage primarily in internet exploration or computer games. In the United States, low income families have a higher incidence of obesity due to the cheap availability of unhealthy foods that provide little nutrition, such as fast food. Healthy and nutritious foods are more expensive, but it can keep an individual full for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to eat healthy.
Such problems can be prevented. WHO has been collaborating with different organizations to develop possible solutions and three main suggestions have been proposed. Although not much can be done about genetic causes, behavioral changes can be achieved through supportive environment, policies, and programs (3). Child obesity is associated with food environment and relevant policies can be made through the introduction of health guidelines and food security surveillance. It is a collaborated action requires participation of government sectors, nonprofits, educational agencies, and society as a whole.
For normal families, such disease can be defeated through daily adjustments. Here are some recommendations for overcoming child obesity:
- Shift to a healthy diet: Increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables and eat whole wheat instead of fried food or meat.
- Sugar Free: Decrease the consumption of sugar and consider a sugar-free baked good as an alternative.
- Exercise: Physical exercise is needed at least one hour for school children. Also, children who play computer games need at least a 10 minute break for physical activity per hour. It can effectively lower the risk of potential cardiac disease.
- Other healthy life alternatives: take a trail trip with family on the weekends rather than indulging in TV programs and internet.
This article contributed by HHP Staff Writer, Xiaoye Jin.