Childhood obesity in the United States is proving to be a topic of major concern. Throughout the past decades, this issue has been overlooked and simply unattended to. Other health issues such as second-hand smoke and cancer have indeed been the more popular topics addressed. However, people are starting to notice a change in the leaders of tomorrow. Quite frankly, these children are becoming extremely unhealthy and overweight. In the past, it was out of the ordinary to see a child that was obese.
However, overweight children in the United States are actually starting to become a norm (Koplan, Liverman & Kraak, 2005). This is where the problem begins to unfold. Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s health due to the fact that obesity hinders a wide range of factors. Imagine a child that cannot participate in any extracurricular activities such as baseball, soccer, or basketball due to his or her weight.
Then, try to explain to that child that due to being overweight, he or she might have an increased chance of heart disease, strokes, and high blood pressure (Vessey & MacKenzie, 2000). Above all, imagine being a child and learning that one of their peers has just died due to the fact that he or she was obese. One must begin to realize that the lives of children in the United States are at stake.
Science in the past has told the public that each generation is living longer than its precedent. The tide has turned sadly enough as scientists are predicting that this verity is now untrue (Kimm & Obarzanek, 2002). With that being said, if lives are beginning to shorten, one might conclude that it is now time to take some action.
In an attempt to explore the idea of childhood obesity one must result to an interdisciplinary analysis. The topic involves a wide range of disciplines such as biology, sociology, psychology, and business, which should all be taken into consideration to avoid an oversimplification. There is not one single discipline that can fully address the entire scope of childhood obesity (Repko, 2005). By narrowing down the research, a large amount of data will be looked at using numerous perspectives to try to avoid a biased outcome.
The extent of obesity in children is an extremely multifaceted topic and desperately needs to be approached this way to fully grasp and comprehend the issue. Also, for a complete understanding and resolution to be formulated, every discipline needed to investigate the issue must be used. Childhood obesity contains a vast range of disciplines to help in its characterization. With that being said, these disciplines tend to all be interlocked with one another.
Looking at childhood obesity through the discipline of biology for instance would constantly be leading the researcher to a psychological standpoint every time a page is turned. Simply ignoring certain disciplines would be an extreme mistake in trying to come to a conclusive solution of the issue addressed and would most likely lead to a biased opinion.
The following is a compilation of all the disciplines used along with each of their contributions in the process of addressing the issue of childhood obesity. There is indeed a vast range of disciplines that are included. Chemistry, economics, law, and history all bring important insights to the table when addressing childhood obesity. Chemistry will look at various experimental data to try to assess the various structures of fats and sugars that are involved in a child’s diet.
Economics could be used to try to understand the possible effects that production and distribution of certain foods has when placed in front of children. Why are these extremely unhealthy foods being put on the shelf for kids to buy? Economics would try to investigate this issue and bring forth a decisive explanation. In addition, law would be utilized to help to understand what governmental efforts have been made towards the issue of childhood obesity.
Are the steps being taken by are government in the right direction or are they simply dancing around the heart of the issue? Finally, history is a very helpful discipline in referencing statistical data taken about obese children. Has this problem always been around or is it just now becoming an issue? History with the help of statistics will also illustrate past successes and failures of strategies that were put in action to help to aid the issue being discussed.
Throughout the course of the investigation of childhood obesity all the preceding disciplines listed will be taken into consideration. However, biology, sociology, and business will be most relevant and crucial to the process of defining the issue at hand.
Biology will be used to try to understand the needs of the human body to progress and function. Each person has a minimum amount of calories that must be consumed to properly run its processes. Likewise, each person has a unique rate of consuming these calories and converting them to energy. The researcher can use biology to place an actually measurement of health of an individual.
Attaining a proper measurement or gauge of health has proven to be a very difficult task. Height, sex, genetics, bone structure, and even ethnicity are all very important factors that determine a child’s proper weight. Biology will help to place a gauge on each of these factors and formulate a proper medium for each person. This discipline will be examined first in the following writing because one needs to understand what obesity is before he or she can begin to examine the problem. Biology will basically lay a foundation for the rest of the disciplines as to how they are to be used to assess obesity in children.
Next, a viewpoint based on sociology must be addressed. Demographics of families, along with their ethnicities will be looked at to try to explain the effects of obesity on certain specific populations. Society will be investigated to try to expose the viewpoints of obese children and their parents. Does society really understand the issue? Do children place any concern with health and fitness? These are both very important questions that sociology will help to address through the aid of statistical data.
Also, every child does have the right to choose what he or she consumes on a day-to-day basis. Hence, each child must face all of the problems that arise if he or she becomes obese. Obesity is not purely a biological problem. If the previous statement was true, a child could then simply consume less calories and loose weight. However, a child has to make cognitive choices and observations about what is acceptable.
Sociology will step in and try to uncover any problems that may be resulting in a population of obese children that simply are misguided by the viewpoints of society. This discipline will be used after biology in hopes to build upon the new understanding of the problem. Once a person understands the physical aspects of childhood obesity using biology, then he or she can delve into the societal traits.
Finally, obesity has become such a large issue that it has effectively created an entire new industry to take care of itself. Business is a discipline that will be used to help explain the way industries portray children and how they affect what populations recognize and understand. Business will try to assess ethical issues as to whether the food industry for example is making an effort to help.
There are obviously many businesses in the United States that are trying to educate children about obesity. However, for every positive product formed, there is another marketing scheme that is made to try to take advantage of a very helpless situation. As a result, the structure and function of the food industry needs to be addressed and scanned for possible pitfalls and shortcomings.
Lastly, the discipline of business will be used in the final part of this paper in hopes to illustrate how it relates back to the obese children. The reader will then furthermore understand the extremity of this issue and how it is rooted in almost every aspect of life.
In summation, childhood obesity is an extremely sophisticated problem involving the ethics and morals or our society. Children cannot be expected to solve their own problem and desperately need help from all ends of the spectrum. The purpose of this paper is to lay the foundation for a better understanding and new perspective of childhood obesity.
This perspective will hopefully stem new possible outcomes that are constructed by the synthesis of each of the discipline’s contributions. Furthermore, the following writing will attempt to educate society of the dangers of childhood obesity and show that this is not a problem caused by one situation. Hopefully the reader will realize that through an interdisciplinary understanding, bringing an end to obesity in children is not an unattainable goal.
How is childhood obesity defined? Has this issue been around for a long time or is it merely just beginning to cause trouble for the United States? These are two very important questions that every individual needs to be aware of. One cannot expect to be able to successfully tackle an issue without knowing its history beforehand.
First, childhood obesity is basically defined as a person that has a body mass index that is above the 95th percentile. That is, the individual exceeds his or her natural weight by approximately 20%. Body mass index is the most widely accepted procedure for sampling obesity in large populations.
Basically, it is a numerical measurement composed of a person’s height and weight. Although this particular test does not take a persons bone structure into consideration, the average of an overall population remains very accurate (Vessey & MacKenzie, 2000).
The people involved in this issue are individuals between the ages of 6 and 17. Male and female children including every ethnicity that resides in the United States are included in this problem. Although obesity rates are increasing almost exponentially in all age groups, children seem to be of the most concern to health experts today. These children are in the most important stage of their growth. An overweight child is putting his or her entire lifespan in jeopardy (Green & Reese, 2006).
Adolescent obesity has not been around as long as other problems such as cancer, leukemia, or the flu. Yet, it is unique due to the fact that childhood obesity is growing at such an alarming rate. The first signs of childhood obesity began to appear in the 1960’s (Schwartz & Puhl, 2003). What caused this sudden weight gain in children during this time? There are several possible explanations however there does not seem to be one clearly defined culprit.
The fast food industry is just one of the possible causes that is often looked at. Critics believe that during the 1960’s fast food was starting to embed in American culture. McDonalds restaurants were popping up all around the United States offering a quick and effortless meal. Before fast food, most families were dependant upon time consuming home cooked meals. However, for the first time, people were starting to realize that a ready-to-eat meal was just a few dollars away. Consequently, people started putting the healthy meal aside and began to grab a quick sandwich from a fast food restaurant.
Hence, in the 1960’s children’s calorie intake began to rise as their eating habits were basically being altered by society. Statistics showed during this time that the percentage of obese children was approximately 4.5%. As calorie intake began to rise, physical activities began to decrease. Approximately 33% of students in high school do not expose themselves to any strenuous physical activity.
Present day schools are so involved in standardized testing that extracurricular activities have been in some ways taken out of the daily lesson plan. Even technology, which usually always aids in the advancement of society, has played a role in increasing rates of childhood obesity. Computer based games, and highly sophisticated cell phones are a few examples that have placed negative outcomes on beneficial cardiovascular events (Harper, 2006).
Heath experts began to see a problem by the 1970’s. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was one of the first efforts in addressing the issue of childhood obesity. A study was done in three parts during a 25-year span starting in the late 1960’s. The test studied the body mass index of children and adjusted the results as age, sex, and ethnicity of the population of children changed through time.
The results were anything but subtle. There was a 40% increase of overweight children in the ten-year span of the first and second studies. No other illness at this time was even close to growing at such an astounding rate (Rosenbaum & Leibel, 1998). With that being said, the third study that was completed in 1994 delivered a divesting knockout punch. The National Health and Nutrition Survey revealed that the number of obese children in the United States had grown a monstrous 100% in the past 10 years (Dietz & Gortmaker, 2001).
Obesity in children was now considered an epidemic. In the past decade, the percentage of obese adolescents in the 95th percentile has once again doubled. Obese children between the ages of 6 and 11 seemed to have the highest grow rates of any other subgroup. Estimates were now showing that almost 15% of the children in the United States are obese or extremely overweight. Obesity does not seem to be biased towards any particular age, race, or gender. However, African American girls, Hispanics, and American Indians were shown to have the largest overweight populations (Koplan, Liverman & Kraak, 2005).
Why are obese children the population that is drawing the most attention? First, biologists studying this epidemic have noted that fact that the gene pool in the United States has basically remained the same over the past 15 years. This tends to rule out any possible explanations dealing with actual evolutionary changes or modifications in the human body. As a result, scientists tend to believe that the causes of the increase in children’s weight are a product of environmental effects on metabolism.
At any rate, it is shown that individuals who are obese as children are most likely beginning a lifelong fight (Dietz & Gortmaker, 2001). Present studies have shown that approximately 95% of obese individuals who succeed in loosing weight tend to gain almost all of it back over time (Koplan, Liverman & Kraak, 2005). This statement is supported by our ever-increasing percentage of obese adults. In 2001, statistics show that there were 29 states containing a percentage of obese adults of 20% or greater.
Hence, prevention at the earliest possible age is said to be the only hope for success in stopping this seemingly out of control problem. It is shown that the younger the child is, the less likely he or she will have developed bad eating habits. Also, younger children tend to be much easier to work with as oppose to stubborn teenagers who may not accept parental influence.
All in all, childhood obesity tends to result in numerous mental, physical and social health disorders for the growing individual. Without immediate intervention at a young age, obesity in children may continue to grow (Kimm & Obarzanek, 2002).
The following writing will continue to decipher the issue of adolescent obesity and will expose crucial concepts, theories and assumptions dealing with each discipline involved. Biology will first be discussed with the goal of further defining the physical and biological effects of childhood obesity. One must understand how the child physically becomes obese and what biological factors are involved.
Next, sociology will be addressed with the goal of educating the reader of the impacts that society has on obese children. Are there any direct causes of obesity that society may have initiated? Finally, business will be mined for possible ways that large companies and organizations have affected the issue. Are these interventions effective or are they merely ways to mask the problem?
In conclusion, each discipline involved offers its own understanding of childhood obesity. One must take each possible approach into consideration in hopes of forming a new more comprehensive explanation. An interdisciplinary approach is used in this situation to help organize the inputs of the disciplines and then synthesize them into a new holistic picture. This process helps to avoid a biased opinion, which is likely formed by increasing specialization of the disciplines. Furthermore it attacks the issue from every angle within the reach of the disciplines used (Repko, 2005).
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Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing.
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