When I was in grade school, one of my classmates was greatly overweight. Michael was an easy target for teasing and bullying. He couldn’t run very well and always did poorly in gym class. He was shy, and most of the children didn’t want to be seen with him, so he was largely ignored. In our third-grade minds, we assumed he was so fat because there was something wrong with him — something made him eat too much. We never considered that shunning him may possibly have contributed to that. While studying child psychology in college, I thought about Michael, what he must have felt, and wondered how he “turned out” as an adult.
Nowadays, Michael would not be the only obese child in a classroom. The Obesity Society notes, in the past 30 years, the occurrence of overweight in children has tripled. Last year, President Obama proclaimed September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, announcing that we have a national childhood obesity crisis as one in three children are overweight or obese.
Last week, I wrote about adult obesity. This week, I want to talk about childhood obesity, since it’s an important topic to both Deborah Rozman and me. Childhood obesity is preventable in the majority of cases, yet it requires a commitment by adults to address both the obvious and the hidden causes. The consequences for children and our society are too great if we don’t come together to maturely address this epidemic.
Potential Health Consequences
The Obesity Society points out that both short-term and long-term effects of overweight on health are of immense concern because of the negative physical health consequences in childhood. Obese children are at much greater risk than other children of insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, hypertension, sleep apnea, metabolic syndrome, liver disease and orthopedic problems. They also are more likely to be obese as adults, thus increasing the risk of a number of diseases, among them stroke, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers.