The War on Childhood Obesity

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Fitness
The fact that fifteen percent of children are obese has become sufficiently alarming to mount a movement aimed at fighting childhood obesity. The Journal of American Medical Association in its December 12, 2001 issue portrayed childhood obesity as an epidemic. The UK House of Commons in May 2004 urged that if actions are not quickly implemented to fight childhood obesity, it will become the leading cause of morbidity around the world, surpassing even smoking.

Experts around the globe have been crying out in unison that the primary causes of childhood obesity are mostly environmental. They point accusing fingers at vending machines located in schools and the growth of the fast food industry (junk food) worldwide. The easy access to food lacking nutrition along with relatively minimal emphasis on exercise has been predominantly blamed for the rise of childhood obesity. Today's children face a serious health threat - and not simply as future adults, but also during their more fragile developing years. The fight against childhood obesity must enlist the attention and assistance of parents, the children themselves, and even governments.

The combination of easy access to empty-calorie junk food along with sedentary lifestyles; (e.g. TV, video games, instant messaging) all converge as a health plague against the well-being of children. Such a deadly combination calls for cooperative action among concerned family members, private organizations, and legislative bodies. Fighting childhood obesity cannot be the purview of only a few or merely a battle cry without subsequent follow through.

To fight childhood obesity, policy makers in the UK have planned to implement the labeling of food content to categorize each item's level of healthfulness. Since there have been decades of heavy junk food advertising, the World Health Organization is even considering a ban on the promotion of such snacks on TV and print media, including teen magazines and newspapers. Of course, the impacted manufacturers cried "foul" at the announcement since such a policy is supposedly not evidence-based and reflects poorly on their products. Instead, they have urged that governments and other obesity organizations conduct scientific studies to validate the claim that their products are indeed harmful.

Numerous obesity organizations - including the American Obesity Association and Overeaters Anonymous - have been instrumental in fighting childhood obesity through awareness campaigns and family consultation. Even the Surgeon General has called the citizenry at large to join the fight in diminishing and preventing the incidence of childhood obesity. All have recommended that parents encourage their children to become more active in sports, dancing, and other healthy physical activities that help to burn calories and strengthen the heart. These recommendations are in lieu of parking in front of a TV for hours with little more than a bag of chips and can of soda.

Fighting the plague of obesity cannot simply be addressed by personal adherence to diet and exercise alone. The combined efforts of individuals, concerned organizations, and governing bodies are necessary to provide a message of solidarity that helps to control the incidence of obese children and thus minimizing their current and future health risks.