University of Maryland
Childhood obesity is a major concern for parents, teachers, and the medical community with differing philosophies and theories on causes and prevention. Inactivity, genetics, technology and parenting attitudes and beliefs are factors which contribute to childhood obesity. Peer pressure and social circles also create an epidemic of children overweight or obese. Intervention by parents, physicians and the educational system with support and nutrition with physical activity instruction can help create a culture of informed children.
Childhood obesity is a major concern for parents, teachers and health care providers. Children will gain weight as they grow and develop. The problem presents when a child has extra pounds not needed for normal growth and development. Extra weight leads to obesity and particularly for a young child or adolescent can create serious medical conditions continuing into adulthood. Researching and determining particular and specific causes for childhood obesity can help in educating and motivating children and parents towards behavior changes to correct and prevent childhood obesity.
Criteria for determining obesity in children rely on body mass index (BMI) in relation to overall weight, age, height and body structure. A BMI in children ages 6 to 19 years of age between the 85th and 94th percentiles is considered in the normal range, while anything over the 95th percentile is considered obese (Hampl and Summar, 2009). While there are many factors believed to be directly related to childhood obesity, the parents’ perception of weight and healthy lifestyles directly impact children. Not all unhealthy conscious parents will produce unhealthy children; the effect still remains on a child’s upbringing.
Beyond a child’s upbringing, there are genetic factors which play a role in childhood obesity. Excess weight is typically caused by overeating and exercising too little. However, there are some hormonal and genetic causes contributing to childhood obesity. Cushing’s syndrome is one example of a medically predisposed reason for weight problems in children. This condition occurs when the body experiences high levels of the hormone cortisol for an extended period of time. Along with increased weight it can cause high blood pressure, bone loss and diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2008).
Physical activity and social interaction are also factors in childhood obesity. Luisa Franzini, et.al. (2009) through a research study found that neighborhood social factors as well as the physical environment affect childhood obesity and the importance of health policies and interventions to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity. With the documented evidence of health related problems associated with obesity, it is important to enlist parents, educators and health care providers to address the problem of overweight children and the dynamics of how diet, activity and social interaction affect an individual. Sarah Barlow, et.al. (2002) conducted a study on the rise in childhood obesity and recognizes the vital component clinicians’ plays in the role of identifying the problem and assess the risk factors for that individual.