Childhood obesity continues to be a serious problem in the United States and around the world. According to Evans et al in the article Changing Perceptions of the Childhood
Obesity Epidemic, obesity is one of the primary causes of preventable death in the US, and costs
billions of dollars a year in health care expenditures. Their article discussed a study in which the attitudes of adults in the United States were studied, as well as the thoughts of the participants on the best ways to reduce childhood obesity.
According to MacDougall et al in the article We Have To Live in the Future, getting children to increase their levels of physical activity is the key to reducing childhood obesity. They conducted a study of 204 children living in South Australia which attempted to answer two questions: What do children think about sports and physical activity; and how do they express those thoughts to adults. They conducted the study using several methods: focus groups, interviews, and allowing the children to take photos that related to physical activity in some way.
The study concluded that it is important and necessary to give children a voice in determining how they engage in physical activity. The children in the study were happy that their voices were being heard. They overwhelmingly expressed that they enjoyed playing according to their own ideas as opposed to the more organized sports and activities that adults tend to think of as physical activity.
Vickii B. Jenvey, in her article The Relationship Between Television Viewing and Obesity in Young Children: A Review of Existing Explanations, points out that studies show that children spend more time in sedentary leisure activities, such as watching television, playing video games, and using the internet, than they do engaging in physical activity. Jenvey points out three problems that arise as a result of excessive television viewing: one, that children are spending time watching television when they could be engaging in physical activity, two, that children are exposed to advertising for unhealthy foods that contribute to obesity, and three, that viewing these ads may lead children to believe that these foods are good for them, when the opposite is frequently true.
Nancy Signorelli and Jessica Staples expand on the third hypothesis in their article, Television and Children’s Conceptions of Nutrition: Unhealthy Messages. They point out that the only thing children spend more time doing than they spend watching television is sleeping. Unhealthy, sugary, fatty foods are by far the most advertised product to children. They conclude that children frequently believe that the foods they see advertised on television are more nutritious than other foods, and that it is important to educate children about advertising and nutrition.
I believe that the key to reducing and preventing childhood obesity lies in a two-pronged approach: getting children to engage in more physical activity and educating them...