Childhood Obesity Problem & Solution in Kentucky

Introduction

Contemporaneously, America suffers from two vast epidemics that negatively influence the lives of its citizens. The first one is the Coronavirus pandemic, and the second one, which was growing over the decades, is the obesity epidemic. Obesity is a complicated issue for divergent reasons such as hormonal imbalance, metabolic problems, genetics, or behavioral factors. It is effortful to determine the exact cause behind a person’s excessive body fat. Furthermore, the epidemic had worsened throughout the 40 years since the obesity rates had increased more than twice (Cross, 2019). However, despite the fact that America faces obesity epidemic throughout the country and it is a national problem, children are in grave danger, especially children, who live in Kentucky.

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The Problem

While the obesity epidemic is severe throughout America, there are states where the problem grows out of control. One such state is Kentucky, where almost one out of four children between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese, which makes Kentucky the third state with the worst indexes (Cross, 2019). The rate of obesity in this state continues to grow, reaching 38% among children and adolescents (Cross, 2019). Moreover, more than half of Kentucky’s children from more impoverished families are overweight or obese according to the BMI standards (Cross, 2019). Medical professionals and scientists connect the phenomenon to the fact that many lower-income families often cannot afford the proper medical care, and sometimes their children can suffer from health conditions that make them store extra fat. As a result, parents are often unaware that their offspring are pre-diabetic, diabetic, have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hormonal misbalance, or other severe health conditions.

Furthermore, kids from low-income families are usually less exposed to physical activities, healthy eating, and education concerning their lifestyle. It is common for children from poor Kentucky families to make awful dietary choices that only contribute to the problem and worsen it (Xin et al., 2019). Nevertheless, according to the reports, direct health expenses concerning child obesity is often costly to the country since it requires around $14 billion annually (Cross, 2019). Additionally, overweight children are more likely to continue their lifestyle and stay chunky throughout their adulthood, which significantly shortens their time on Earth and the quality of living.

History

The occurrence of childhood obesity in Kentucky has been ongoing, negatively impacting children and, as a result, adults. Children have been suffering for decades since the exposure to harmful foods is immense in America. It is more convenient and cheap to purchase a burger than buy a healthier alternative. Since the 1930s, food shortages have been decreasing, allowing children and their parents to afford more food and expose themselves to new inventions such as fast food (Li et al., 2018). Currently, American children are exposed to an endless choice of cuisine with minimal energy to obtain them since their parents or guardians purchase all the meals. Therefore, the American tradition of overconsumption has started an epidemic, which can be tied to society’s development. Considering past decades, people with severe health conditions could not overconsume and become morbidly obese because if one is poor, one could not afford to eat as much without working first. For example, people who had hormonal imbalances in the past could not worsen their condition by moving less and eating more.

Causes

The fundamental cause of the vast obesity epidemic is the imbalance between energy and physical activity intake. Moreover, recent studies had shown that the main reason Kentucky has almost the worst situation throughout America is in the terrible American diet (Xin et al., 2019). Convenience is the main enemy of Kentucky children since this state has more fast-food chains than fitness clubs (Li et al., 2018). It is more convenient and cheaper to buy several burgers and Talkies than have a healthy diet and exercise in the gym. Moreover, children are not exposed to money as much, which is why their dietary decisions depend on their parents, who tend to choose an unbalanced and unhealthy diet. Another cause of the rapid epidemic is in the environment. The large amounts of sugary drinks, which are quite popular in America, is also a significant contributor to the problem. The studies have shown that within the group of children from 9 to 14 years, an increased consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to the increased BMI results (Xin et al., 2019). Therefore, a large part of the problem is in the dietary choices made by parents.

Another cause of the growing obesity epidemic is genetics since if the parents have poor health and the health conditions that make it harder for them to lose weight, their child is most likely to become obese in the future. As estimated by the researchers, BMI appears to be 25-40% inherited from the parents (Xin et al., 2019). Furthermore, a significant contributor to the problem can be stress from school, emotional instability, mental disorders, exposure to bullying, which usually concludes with comfort foods, and poor sleep. Currently, the mental issues that lead to childhood obesity are body dysmorphia, eating disorders, emotional dependency on food. All these factors combined can create a significant problem in the future. At the time of the global pandemic of Coronavirus, it is even harder to be active, and some people report their mental conditions deteriorating.

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Effects

The effects of childhood obesity can vary from physical to psychological and even social. This disease affects a child’s academic performance, making it worse, potentially damaging one’s self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. Childhood obesity is connected to numerous medical conditions, including sleep apnea, type two diabetes, high cholesterol level, lowering of life expectancy, skin conditions, menstrual abnormalities, hormonal misbalance, cardiovascular disease, and other deadly issues. Until recently, these problems concerned only obese adults; however, Kentucky children showcase a rapid increase in the physical conditions, which appear to be linked to the excessive fat they carry on their bodies. At least the majority of these conditions are preventable and will disappear when the child reaches a healthy weight according to the BMI formula. The worst scenario could be lower life expectancy and early death.

Moreover, besides numerous medical conditions, childhood obesity affects a child’s social and emotional state. Since children consider obesity the least socially acceptable disease, they can be ruthless when it comes to bullying. Therefore, because of the increase in obesity levels, the suicide levels in Kentucky grew as well, making it the tenth state with the more significant percentage of suicide among children and adolescents (Li et al., 2018). Overweight and obese children from Kentucky often suffer from negative stereotypes, discrimination at school. Obese children are regularly excluded from physical school activities, which can be followed by low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and eating disorders. The social consequences can appear in child’s isolation at home or other safe spaces away from bullying, which worsens their situation since they allocate their time less socially interacting and instead tend to contribute to a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, as recent studies showcase, obesity had been tied to harmful effects on school performance (Li et al., 2018). Obese children are more likely to miss school for the reason that they have severe health conditions or because of bullying, which affects their academic success.

Solutions

The solutions to the problems can vary from interfamily to state level decisions. For example, to prevent youth obesity, the family should consider making the child’s favorite dish healthier, encourage drinking more water, incorporate delicious and healthy snacks, teach children about healthy eating habits, and get more physically active as a family. However, not all parents can allow healthy foods and spend much time with their children, which is why some state changes are also essential. For example, education facility should implement healthy food choices instead of pizza and fast food snacks (Samjhana, 2016). The government should enforce standards for foods, make them nutritious and healthy. Moreover, it would be better for the state to forbid selling sugary snacks and drinks at schools, public parks, and vending machines.

To conclude, childhood obesity is a grave problem in all of America, which is especially horrid in states such as Kentucky. 38% of Kentucky children are either overweight or obese, which is the highest statistical point as of recent years. Some children suffer from medical conditions, but the majority of obese children have problems with eating and physical activities. Therefore, the government has to implement some policies to improve the situation.

References

Li, Y., Du, T. & Peng, J. (2018). ‘Understanding Out-of-Home Food Environment, Family Restaurant Choices, and Childhood Obesity with an Agent-Based Huff Model’. Sustainability, 10(5), 1575. Web.

Samjhana, S. (2016). Behavioral Modification Program to Control Obesity among School Children in Knott County, Kentucky. (114). Web.

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Xin, J., Zhao, L., Wu, T., Zhang, L., Li, Y., Xue, H., Xiao, Q., Wang, R., Xu, P., Visscher, T., Ma, X. & Jia, P. (2019). Association between access to convenience stores and childhood obesity: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 1467−7881. Web.

Cross, A. (2019). Kentucky ranks 3rd in child obesity, a disease tied to a long list of other health issues; treatment requires changes in family lifestyle. Kentucky Health News. Web.

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