Fat, fatter, fattest are some of the unkind words used to describe many children today. In today’s society, obesity is the main reason for a number of health issues. Obesity has reached an all-time high in the United States because of the alarming rate of consumption of high-caloric diets and very little physical activity; if at all any. The lack of physical activity and diet can affect one’s weight control. Surely, there are those who would suggest that people should be more aware of their eating habits and make better choices. Yet they are those who feel that it is the fast food giants such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's, to name a few, which should be held accountable.
Although rates of childhood obesity among the general population are alarmingly high, they are much higher in ethnic minority and low-income communities. Trying to identify ways to reverse the trend of overweight and obesity in lower-income, African American children is not an easy task. Overweight children are at risk for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. It is very sad knowing that this could be avoided if only they would exercise more. Parents need to be more aware of the health consequences in which they are putting their children at risk for. Unfortunately, obesity is not something children outgrow; obese children are more likely to become obese adults.
Children who participate in higher levels of physical activity are less likely to display the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and more likely to have positive outcomes in weight regulation. As an African American, I’m quite worried about this outlook and others like it. It saddens my heart to see so many overweight and obese African American children going through such an ordeal when it can be prevented. One in four African-Americans live in poverty, according to Morland, Wing, & Diez; they further went on to say that there is a strong correlation between low income and obesity.
Most poor neighborhoods do not have grocery stores and supermarkets that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods are an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Thus the lack of not having these produces also factors in. Morland, Wing, & Diez also call attention to the saturation of inexpensive fast food eateries, instead of fresh meat, fish, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits, in the black community. It’s almost mind boggling, knowing that some people could care less how their food is prepared and processed. However, because it is inexpensive people tend to eat as much as they can without thinking about the long term consequences. Despite this alarming outlook, there are families within the black community who would love to eat healthier, but because of their economic situation, are unable to do so.
The media can influence and does pose an important challenge to healthy eating and regular activity among children. It plays a big part. Children for hours on end will sit in front of the television watching commercials. “Children 8—18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including TV, computers, video games, cell phones, and movies” (Rideout & Hamil, 2006). “Eighty-three percent of children from 6 months to less than 6 years of age view TV or videos about 1 hour and 57 minutes a day” (Rideout & Hamil, 2006). It is fair to say then, that watching a lot of television is a contributing factor for childhood obesity, because it takes away from the time they could spend exercising or doing some physical activity. Instead, they eat one meal after the other and endless snacks. It is a known fact that physical activity improves overall health. Not only does it improve circulation, increase blood flow to the brain, and raise endorphin levels (which all help to reduce stress, improve mood and attitude, and calm children), physically active students also achieve more academically.
Obesity in children has become a national epidemic throughout the country. Minority children are particularly affected with an even greater risk of acquiring an obesity-related illness. Regardless of how one looks at the current situation, African American children living in inner cities will continue to have a number of issues when dealing with obesity. Compared with white students, black children are exposed to more fast food restaurants and convenience foods, more television, and neighborhood conditions that are not conducive to outside physical activity. A difficult task it is. However, in order to promote physical activity and healthy eating, we must begin with improving and expanding our efforts, starting in the schools - by educating young people to become healthier by changing their eating habits and exercising more.
Date: June 10, 2012
Writer’s Name: Pathfinder
Journal Topic: Obesity in African-American Children