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Topic 1: Child and Adolescent Health Risks

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Obesity is not exclusive to adults. Each day, more and more children are finding themselves at risk for overweight and obesity. Childhood obesity often accompanies many of the obesity-related conditions adults affected by obesity often experience, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and more. Recent data shows that up to 80 percent of children affected by obesity will continue to be affected by obesity into adulthood (Lobstein, et all, 2015). Obesity impacts children in a variety of ways. First and foremost, a child’s health is impacted as they have now opened themselves up to a wide variety of health issues – issues that most of us didn’t experience until middle-age. In addition to health implications, there’s also one other area that children face which can be very serious – weight bias and bullying. Kids impacted by obesity often find themselves the target of bullying. This bullying can take place in the classroom, in your neighborhood and even in your own home. It is very important to recognize this type of behavior and address it quickly (Lobstein, et all, 2015). The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a nonprofit dedicated to educating and advocating for those affected by obesity, provides valuable resources on weight bullying.

Over the last decades, food has become more affordable to larger numbers of people as the price of food has decreased substantially relative to income and the concept of ‘food’ has changed from a means of nourishment to a marker of lifestyle and a source of pleasure. Clearly, increases in physical activity are not likely to offset an energy rich, poor nutritive diet. It takes between 1–2 hours of extremely vigorous activity to counteract a single large-sized (i.e., >=785 kcal) children’s meal at a fast food restaurant (Lobstein, et all, 2015). Frequent consumption of such a diet can hardly be counteracted by the average child or adult.

It has been hypothesized that a steady decline in physical activity among all age groups has heavily contributed to rising rates of obesity all around the world. Physical activity strongly influenced weight gain in a study of monozygotic twins (Rivera, et all, 2014). Numerous studies have shown that sedentary behaviors like watching television and playing computer games are associated with increased prevalence of obesity. Furthermore, parents report that they prefer having their children watch television at home rather than play outside unattended because parents are then able to complete their chores while keeping an eye on their children (Rivera, et all, 2014). In addition, increased proportions of children who are being driven to school and low participation rates in sports and physical education, particularly among adolescent girls, are also associated with increased obesity prevalence.

Almost all public health researchers and clinicians agree that prevention could be the key strategy for controlling the current epidemic of obesity. Prevention may include primary prevention of overweight or obesity itself, secondary prevention or avoidance of weight regains following weight loss, and prevention of further weight increases in obese individuals unable to lose weight (Rivera, et all, 2014). Until now, most approaches have focused on changing the behavior of individuals on diet and exercise and it seems that these strategies have had little impact on the growing increase of the obesity epidemic.

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