Childhood Obesity: A Modern Plague
Childhood obesity is on the rise as never before. In the past three decades the number of obese children has increased three fold and the World Health Organisation rate obesity as one of their highest ranked concerns. The spread of obesity is such that it has even been described as a modern plague with nearly one-third of American adolescents being classed as either overweight or obese.
Why Does Childhood Obesity Matter?
A child is classed as obese if they have a body mass index over the 95th percentile. But more than mere statistics, an obese child is far more likely to have an uphill struggle in everyday life.
Studies have shown that obese children have poorer mental health and are more likely to feel sad or depressed than their normal weight friends. They are more likely to be singled out for bullying and even teachers tend to perceive obese students as being lazy, poor learners, and over-emotional. This false perception even extends to college applications where from students with identical grades, those who are over-weight are less likely to be offered a place at their first choice college.
Childhood Obesity: Health Matters
The health of an overweight child suffers in both the short and long term.
In the short term, 60% of obese children tend to be tired because of sleep apnea, a common symptom of which is snoring. Sleep apnoea leads to restless sleep because of low brain oxygen levels, this causes fatigue which means lack of concentration at school.
Obese children are over represented amongst those with asthma and high blood pressure, and in the long term the list of health issues is frightening: asthma, androgenism in girls, polycystic ovaries, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, skin infections, and liver disease…the list goes on.
A Modern Plague
Perhaps part of the problem is a lack of willingness to acknowledge what is plain to see. In a study of Professional School Counselors, 90% said that they would like to be actively involved in promoting obesity prevention if only there were more requests from parents, other teachers and students.
Childhood obesity impacts on physical health and mental wellbeing, so isn’t it time to stop sleep walking and wake up to this modern plague?