Reducing Childhood Obesity: Policy Options to Make a Difference


Childhood Obesity

Obesity describes the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation in the body that may lead to health impairment (Kristensen et al., 2014). Childhood obesity refers to a medical condition that affects children. The prevalence of childhood obesity is caused by an imbalance between calories utilized and calorie intake (Karnik & Kanekar, 2012). It is both a major and international health crisis with dire consequences to the people it affects. The prevalence of this condition remains high in the United States especially among the low-income populations and the ethnic and racial minorities (Kristensen et al., 2014). This condition has affected a lot of children and young teenagers, and thus there is a need for a policy to ensure it is eliminated.

Obesity is caused by many factors such as behavioral, environmental, and genetic. However, the main cause is energy imbalance; people take in more energy through foodstuffs than they can use through activities (HM Government, 2016). Therefore, it is important for children to engage in physical activities as they help in health and fitness, muscle and bone strength, and the maintenance of a healthy weight (HM Government, 2016).

Policies have been enacted to deal with this condition with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocating for early care and education policy review (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Early care and education are crucial to attempting to implement prevention strategies for obesity. This policy review is meant to enlighten child care providers, public health physicians, and decision makers about the present conditions that exist in their areas and offer them suggestions on how to prevent obesity in the future depending on their demographics (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). There have been measures set aside to prevent childhood obesity depending on the state with a strong emphasis on nutrition and physical activities.

Policy Options

The obesity rates in the US have increased rampantly over the last 30 years, calling for policies to try and curb such trends. There have been policies put in place by 2013 in a bid to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity: student screening at school, or body mass index (BMI), insurance coverage for obesity prevention and treatment, physical education in schools, cooperative or joint use agreements for school facilities, school nutrition legislation, and school wellness policies (National Conference of State Legislations, 2014). These policy options have been enacted to prevent childhood obesity while ensuring that children remain healthy.

These policies such as school nutrition legislation, school wellness policies, and physical education in schools have been widely advocated to prevent the rise in the rates of obesity while at the same time ensuring people do not suffer from chronic diseases at a later age (Frieden, Dietz, & Collins, 2010). It is important to deal with obesity at an early age to avoid children developing in adulthood with obesity. Changing the food environment can reduce obesity and improve nutrition which is crucial to a person.

Tax policies should be enacted to decrease the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks. Junk foods have become relatively cheap while healthy food has become increasingly more expensive. Policies should increase the prices of unhealthy foods and decrease the prices of healthy ones to improve the balance of consumption (Rutten, Yaroch, Patrick, & Story, 2012). It is important to enact interventions that advocate for sustainable food systems to improve health, food security, and prevent obesity (Rutten, Yaroch, Patrick, & Story, 2012). There have been numerous policies put in place to prevent the rate of obesity, but they have not managed to achieve their set goals and objectives, and thus there is a need to consider alternative policies.

Alternative Policies

School health policy can play a great role in the reduction of childhood obesity rates. Well-drafted and administered policies can be enacted in the learning institutions to ensure the smooth running of schools with the minimized ability to be the bearer of obesity. The diet in the schools should be regulated, and the children should be taken through numerous activities that are beneficial to their bodies. Most students spend a lot of their time in school, and thus this should be the most appropriate place to control their fat and educate them on the need for a healthy eating. Policies can provide a fundamental base for school district procedures and practices (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). Therefore, the government should enact policies that guide the school on the eating habits of the students.  The school health policy will give the government the opportunity to go through the school programs and meals. This may require resources for the government to move around and may face opposition from the schools.

Childhood obesity is rampant in some locations due to the family habits and environmental factors that necessitate consumption of substandard food. The local government can enact a policy that creates a healthier community. The local governments are in charge in the communities, and thus they can play a great role in the battle against obesity. Poor people living in mean conditions are a higher risk of contracting childhood obesity, and thus the local government can step up and improve the living conditions in these areas and enlighten the people on the need for a nutritious diet. This will require the people to understand what a nutritious diet entails and be able to maintain this.

Another alternative policy would be to cut down on the amount of sugar in drinks and foods. Many people are aware of the risks that come with taking a lot of sugar, but they continue to take drinks and foodstuffs with a high content of sugar. Some people act in this way out of ignorance while others believe that it is hard to be affected instantly, while there is a population which is unaware of the risks. The government can take the mantle to enact a policy that requires companies to cut the amount of sugar in drinks and foods in a bid to reduce the rate of childhood obesity (HM Government, 2016). Obesity increases the risk of a person dying prematurely, and thus it is important to try everything possible to reduce the rate of obesity.

The caloric calculator can be implemented in schools to be used for the students as this will help the school board intervene in case of childhood obesity (Wang, Hsiao, Orleans, & Gortmaker, 2013). Childhood obesity can only be limited at some cost, and thus there is the need for constant reviews of policies and their implications, constant checks on diets, and continuous implementation of a healthy diet and physical activities. 

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Childhood obesity has been increasing over the years, and this shows that the numerous policies are not achieving what they were set out to. Therefore, it is important to look for more efficient ones or to make these policies stricter. This will help people adhere to them, and ultimately the rates of childhood obesity will go down. The policies will cost the government a ton of money especially policies such as improving the living standards within the communities filled with the poor or the minorities. However, this will be the appropriate way to ensure development.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Weight of the nation: Early care and education policy review. 
  2. Frieden, T., Dietz, W., & Collins, J. (2010, March). Reducing childhood obesity through policy change: Acting now to prevent obesity. Health Affairs
  3. HM Government. (2016, August 18). Childhood obesity: A plan for action. 
  4. Karnik, S., & Kanekar, A. (2012). Childhood obesity: A global public health crisis. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3(1), 1-7.
  5. Kristensen, A. H., Flottemesch, T. J., Maciosek, M. V., Jenson, J., Ashe, M., Story, M., . . . Brownson, R. C. (2014). Reducing childhood obesity through U.S. federal policy. Journal of Preventive Medicine, 47(5), 604-612.
  6. National Conference of State Legislations. (2014, January 3). Childhood obesity legislation- 2013 update of policy ooptions
  7. Rutten, L. F., Yaroch, A. L., Patrick, H., & Story, M. (2012). Obesity prevention and national food security: A food systems approach. ISRN Public Health, 1-7.
  8. Wang, C., Hsiao, A., Orleans, T., & Gortmaker, S. L. (2013). The caloric calculator: Average caloric impact of childhood obesity interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45(2), e3-e13.
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