The American lifestyle is overindulgent. With endless choices available, gluttony is likely. Society teaches us to want; often times much more than we need. This fact applies to many areas of our lives, especially food. So it’s no wonder that obesity is on the rise in America; particularly among our children.
Statistics reveal, “In children ages 6 to 11 years, the prevalence of overweight nearly doubled from 1980 to 1994 and similar increases were observed in adolescents.” These numbers are worrisome. The self confidence issues and increased health risks associated with childhood obesity are cause for great concern.
The American Psychology Association disclosed, “The increase in type-2 diabetes observed among adolescents is thought to be largely attributed to the corresponding increase in obesity. Approximately 25%-50% of obese adolescents become obese adults.” Moreover it has been proven that “The medical consequences of excess weight among adults are greater in those who were overweight as adolescents.” With all these facts indicating the harm of childhood obesity, it’s a wonder that more isn’t being done to prevent this plight.
Doctors and researchers are in debate over how to tackle this serious issue. Harvard Pediatric Professor David Ludwig argues, “State intervention is needed on behalf of severely obese children, such as those who suffer from type-2 diabetes, liver problems, and breathing issues.”
Ludwig is an obesity expert and disclosed a personal story about a patient he treated. This encounter helped to spark his radical point of view regarding childhood obesity. He recounted, “A 3-year-old girl showed up at my obesity clinic weighing 90 pounds. By age 12, she had reached 400 pounds and had developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. Out of medical concern, the state placed this girl in foster care, where she simply received three balanced meals a day, a snack or two, and moderate physical activity. After a year, she lost 130 pounds. Though she is still obese, her diabetes and sleep apnea disappeared; she remains in foster care.”
This account is eye opening as to the large role environment and nurture play in this problem. Nonetheless Ludwig clarifies, “The point isn’t to blame parents, but rather to act in the children’s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can’t provide.”
Others oppose his point of view. Vivek Sankaran, director of the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy counters, “Foster care is not a good option. This is really dangerous stuff we’re talking about. A lot of people don’t realize how traumatic it is for children to be ripped away from their parents.”
Art Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania pointed out, “Taking away custody of obese children might place excessive blame on the parents, who are helpless against the forces of advertising, bullying, and peer pressure that contribute to obesity.”
Research supports these claims. The American Psychology Association exposed, “The root cause of the problem must lie in the powerful social and cultural forces that promote an energy-rich diet and a sedentary lifestyle.”
Ludwig relays the severity of this situation by exclaiming, “Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. But some have obesity related conditions that could kill them by age 30.” He also supports his view by pointing out, “Situations involving the undernourishment of children has frequently been defined as child abuse or neglect and warranted state intervention; it may be likely that overnourishment be addressed similarly.” Ludwig has a valid point, but is this a line the state should be allowed to cross?
This controversial issue raises a lot of concerns regarding personal choice and parental rights. Also, the information fails to conclusively prove which underlying issue is contributing most to obesity in children. Social influence, environmental factors, and parenting all seem to play significant roles in a child’s eating habits. Nonetheless the scientific facts on the hazards of childhood obesity are alarming and action must be taken. Childhood obesity causes esteem issues, self-image problems, and devastating life-long health issues; none of which any parent would want their child to struggle with.