Seventeen percent of children aged two to nineteen are overweight or obese in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This section of the U.S. population adds to the 40 million children overweight worldwide.
Insufficient monetary supplies and limited access to fresh foods have recently been attributed to the obesity epidemic. A lesser-known factor relates to parental behavior.
Parental figures are possibly the most influential factors in a child’s life, so it follows that the decisions parents make regarding their children’s health affect their children’s weight. A correlation exists between what parents quite literally feed their children, but studies found that authoritarian parenting style, living with one parent and living in a two-parent working household also affect childhood obesity.
A study published in the Journal of Child Health Care concluded that parents of obese children typically spend less time promoting healthy lifestyles and less frequently use discipline to enforce healthy living. On the other hand, extreme parenting, that is, a forceful and permissive style, is more prominent in parents of obese children. These actions are often summarized as ineffective parenting.
The United States Census Bureau found that increased obesity rates are correlated with increased maternal workforce participation. However, more significantly, when fathers work more, they presumably spend less time with their children, and their children are more likely to be overweight. In other words, in two-parent households, fathers taking on more work hours is more detrimental to child health than mothers working longer hours.
Childhood obesity poses long-term costs
High obesity rates become detrimental to individuals and the community. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act worry a large number of unhealthy citizens will enroll in the healthcare program, increasing costs for everyone. Additionally, obesity trends developed in children carry into lower productivity in the workplace from inhibited mobility and illness.
Actions to fight obesity
The fight against childhood obesity continues. Parents choose to change household patterns, but the Obama Administration pushes to improve school lunches. Michelle Obama helped develop and implement healthy lunch standards in public schools, mandating low calorie meals including all food groups.
Many parents hold that the cost of fresh foods is too high for limited budgets. Assuming limited access to healthy food options leads to obesity, it seems part of the concern lies in incomes.
Nancy Kurtz of Minnetonka, Minnesota brings another perspective. “With two incomes, we are able to make sure our kids eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish and few sweets. When I don’t have time to cook, we can afford to eat out at fresh foods markets.”
This way, the solution is not necessarily to work shorter hours or to maintain only one job within the family.
However, the low-income projection extends worldwide. A problem once associated with the wealthy, obesity has become increasingly common in lower income nations, as 30 million overweight children live in developing countries and only 10 million in developed ones. Child obesity is often passed over as a problem associated with the United States. Yet looking at the numbers, fighting the childhood obesity epidemic might provide a platform for countries to work together. This marks the start of discussing obesity as a global, rather than national concern.