Growing up in the United States, we remember our childhoods as filled with fun and games – tag on the playground, sports competitions with friends – a seemingly endless well of energy. Unfortunately, too many kids today are facing a different reality; they’re falling victim to a crisis that’s been mounting for years – childhood obesity.
It’s no secret that junk food and technology are taking over our kid’s lives. At the same time, physical activity has become a thing of the past, leading to a public health crisis that is only getting worse as each year passes. If we don’t take action now, future generations will be faced with even more detrimental effects from the growing childhood obesity epidemic. We can’t afford to wait any longer – it’s time to step up and make a change!
Childhood Obesity Statistics
2022 was the final year of available statistics related to childhood obesity, and the numbers are staggering – it’s a crisis that needs attention. This crisis affects children all around the world, and it’s clear that we need to do something to stop this problem before it gets any worse.
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering 39 million children under 5 were overweight or obese in 2020. This issue is no longer limited to higher-income countries; it’s now affecting middle and lower-income nations too. Even more concerning is that being overweight or obese is now linked to more deaths across the world than being underweight!
- The prevalence of obesity among preschoolers has grown nearly three-fold since 1975, jumping from 5% up to more than 18%.
- The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) reported that, in the United from 2017 to 2020, an estimated 14.7 million American children – nearly one-fifth of our nation’s kids – between the ages of 2 and 19 were classified as obese.
- Obese children are at a significantly higher risk of developing medical issues related to their weight than those who have a healthy weight. In fact, they may be up to five times more likely to have at least one significant health issue by the time they reach 12 years old.
- Studies show that obese children often face increased risks for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer into adulthood. There are also psychological effects associated with being overweight, such as depression, anxiety and lower self-esteem.
- Additionally, obese children are more likely to become obese adults, which can lead to even more serious medical conditions, like stroke, heart disease, fractures, and other chronic diseases later in life.
- It is projected that there will be over 70 million obese children worldwide by the end of 2023, if current trends continue unchecked. This number would represent a 70% increase since 2012.
One of the most important ways parents and caregivers can help children stay at a healthy weight is by teaching them good habits early on. It’s also beneficial if healthcare providers give kids and their parents support and guidance.
Why Is Childhood Obesity Becoming A Crisis?
As with anything, there isn’t just one answer for today’s childhood obesity crisis. Among the contributing factors are:
Unhealthy Eating Habits: Poor eating habits, such as not eating breakfast, skipping meals, consuming too much sugar, and snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the day can all cause weight gain in children.
Lack Of Exercise: Today’s kids are much more sedentary than a generation ago. This is due to increased technology use and it means that children often miss out on important physical activity opportunities that help keep them fit and healthy. If calorie intake isn’t balanced with physical activity, it can lead to weight gain and a higher chance of developing chronic health problems.
Stress: Stressful life situations can cause children to overeat or engage in other unhealthy behaviors that lead to weight gain. They can also create other physical and mental health issues. Without healthy coping strategies, kids may manage their stress by resorting to unhealthy behaviors.
Genetics: Due to genetics, some young people may be more prone to storing more fat than the average person, leading to an increased risk of being overweight or obese.
Not Enough Sleep: Some studies have shown that not getting enough sleep might make kids more likely to be obese.
Medications: Certain medications have been linked to weight gain in children. Be sure to speak with your child’s doctor or a pharmacist about any potential side effects of any prescribed medications and ask whether any lifestyle changes may be necessary while the child is taking them.
How Can We Prevent Childhood Obesity?
Fortunately, it’s not too late to take steps to reverse the obesity trend. To be sure, preventing childhood obesity is a group effort, but it starts in the home.
To reduce the chances of their children becoming obese, parents can take the following steps. They should also check in with their pediatrician regularly to make sure their child’s weight is healthy.
These steps include:
- Reducing and limiting screen time
- Regular physical activity, ideally modeled by physically active parents
- Encouraging the child to drink more water instead of fruit juices and sugary drinks
- Healthy snack and food choices at home, such as fresh fruits and vegetables
- Limiting access to unhealthy food options, like high-fat or sugary foods and beverages
- Creating a positive environment where children feel supported and encouraged to make good nutritional choices
- Setting bedtime schedules so the child gets enough sleep
- Talking to kids about nutrition and weight issues in a way that fosters body confidence and self-esteem instead of reinforcing negative attitudes toward weight or size
Pediatricians should screen their patients for risk factors for obesity and provide nutrition education to parents. They should also refer to community resources as needed. In addition, pediatric doctors must counsel parents on creating a supportive home environment and encouraging healthy behaviors in their children.
Schools can also help kids stay healthy by creating and enforcing policies promoting physical activity and healthy eating habits. Nutrition education programs can teach their students the importance of making nutritious food choices and maintaining a healthy weight.
The key to reversing childhood obesity is to get kids involved in their own health from an early age and empower them with knowledge about the benefits of good nutrition and regular physical activity.
If we make small changes in our lifestyles and provide proper guidance and tools at home and in the schools, we can break the cycle of childhood obesity and our children can grow into happy, healthy adults.
We Can Help
If you are worried about your child’s weight and health, discuss your concerns with our pediatric psychologist, who specializes in childhood obesity. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-223-6568.