If there were any proof needed to support the current epidemic of obesity that is sweeping the globe, then it can be found through a recent case reported in China. A four year old boy, who weighs a staggering 136 pounds, has been offered free and potentially life saving treatment by a clinic in Hong Kong, with a view to preventing any long term health issues in his future. Doctors have stepped in after the case was brought to national attention through the media, and have ran an extensive number of tests to determine the existence of any underlying causes for the child’s condition.
Despite conducting an investigation that was both labored and considered, doctors have found no medical condition that could have acted as the trigger to the child’s obesity. While this is good news in terms of the child’s long term potential for recovery, it places the responsibility for his state of being firmly at the door of his parents, who allowed him to gradually eat his way into obesity. Yet there appears to be a reluctance to scrutinize his parents conduct throughout the affair, despite the fact that their behavior has put the health and well being of a young child at risk.
The Worldwide Growth of Obesity
The issue of obesity is a global one, and it is becoming increasingly prominent in numerous cities worldwide. It is estimated that obesity has risen to as high as 20 percent in some Chinese cities, as well as continuing to increase in other advanced and educated countries such as the US, UK and France. Its rise is worrying in the extreme, and if this trend continues it may well challenge tobacco as the single largest threat to individual health for the next generation.
In the US alone, only 2 of the 50 states recorded rates of obesity amongst adults of beneath 20 percent in 2010, with the others all recording statistics of between 20 and 35 percent. The states across the southern belt line appear to be the worse affected over the last decade, with Mississippi in particular registering an obesity rate of nearly 35 percent. Louisiana and Alabama also delivered figures of over 30 percent, while Texas and Kentucky averaged a cumulative rate of 30 percent. It seems that regardless of whether you assess the situation as a local, national or global concern, it is something that threatens the health of our children and young adults of the future.
If the adult statistics are concerning, then these pale into insignificance when compared with child obesity. Just as it is in other countries, child and adolescent obesity has soared in the last 20 years in the US, with an average 12 percent of children between the age of 2 and 19 now recording an individual Body Mass Index (BMI) that is obese. The figures were particularly worrying for the 12 to 19 year old age demographic, whose number had a 19 percent obesity rate which had nearly tripled in the last 2 decades.
It is the issue of child obesity that is most concerning, and it is this trend that will create a brand new generation of unfit and unhealthy individuals. Not only this, but while adults are driven by their own free will and motivation, children are entirely dependent on their parents and guardians to teach them responsible behavioral conduct. In instances where a child’s obesity is not caused an existing medical condition, fault for the development of over eating habits and reduced physical activity is the domain of the responsible adult.
Despite this, there seems to be a inherent lack of scrutiny in the role that parents play in childhood obesity. The recent case in China is a significant example, as although doctors have confirmed that the obesity is the result of over eating alone, the local and national media have portrayed the parents as innocent bystanders who are striving to help their stricken child. In truth, toddlers and young children are reliant on parents for their diet and the level of physical exercise that they are exposed to, so guardians retain a duty to feed their children nutritional food and deliver a structured and rigid schedule of activities.
Interactive gaming and online media are also influential in the rise of obesity, chiefly as they offer parents an easy and convenient method through which to occupy and stimulate their children. For busy parents, video games and television offer a cost effective way to entertain their offspring, while they can undertake their day to day chores and tasks. In some ways, this allows them to defer a portion of their responsibility without directly harming their child, which is a course of action that ultimately leaves them vulnerable to other, less obvious threats to their well being.
Accountability for Social Issues
Obesity is a prevalent social issue, and holding individuals accountable for their actions is the key to resolving it. Where children are allowed to eat their way into obesity due to a poor nutritional intake and reduced level of physical exertion, parents must be held accountable and take responsibility for displaying a lack of relevant guidance. It is fine to look towards governments and educational bodies to resolves this and other social concerns, but it is accepted that children learn most in their formative years through the example of their elders. This means that parents and guardians are the most significant regulators of a child’s health, and must be coerced into cultivating healthy and sensible lifestyle choices.