Today, I got an email from a college student from the University of Missouri. She needed to interview someone about childhood obesity, and asked me if I could help her out. So, she sent me some questions to answer on the topic, and I figured it could not hurt to post them here if anyone finds them helpful.
1. What is the most prevalent cause(s) of obesity that you see trending in the past few years? Has this cause changed over time?
There are so many factors that have changed over the last 20 years, some environmentally, some from advancements in society. Children today have vending machines in schools with junk food, have more homework causing them more sedentary lifestyle, take buses to school, eat more fast food, have 24/7 TV stations that interest them keeping them stationary on the couch…..but, I feel the largest factor contributing to obesity is technology. Where ‘children and play’ used to be natural companions 20 years ago, ‘children and technology’ have become the new companions. All this technology available to them is fun, exciting, and keeps them connected with friends. With the exception of some devices like the Wii, most technology promotes sedentary lifestyle, and there is so much available to them. So, parents need to monitor this and limit it as best as they can.
2. Do you think that people are aware of how serious the issue is in our country?
Some people do! But the majority of people do not see it. When the American Heart Association says 25 million children are overweight or obese…..or when the CDC says the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased significantly over the last 20 years – - I listen. These organizations are not going to make up facts. They have reputations to uphold. When experts say this could be the first generation of young children whose life expectancy could be shorter than their parents, I get worried. The proof is there. Look how more children today have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is environmental, meaning children are exposed to unhealthy lifestyle causing them to be overweight, which contributes to type 2 diabetes.
3. In relation to the above question, do you think that we are doing all we can do prevent and reduce obesity in America? What else could we be doing instead or in addition?
Education is the key. Helping children lead a healthy lifestyle is a team effort, and not one group is solely responsible. Parents, teachers, principals, friends, coaches, neighbors, and children need to all step up to the plate and work together on eating properly, exercising daily, and all around good health.
4. I’ve read in several research articles that obesity starts at home and is greatly influenced by family environments. Do you agree? Why or why not?
This is partially true. Parents are the number 1 role model for children. So, if a child sees a parent doing something unhealthy, they may mimic this action. The child sees the parent as the ‘life educator’ who is going to teach them the survival skills of life. Many adults do not understand the influence they have in children. But, as I said in the above question, it is a team effort, and not one group is to blame.