The purpose of this statement is to express my position in regards to the ongoing issue in America of childhood obesity and whether or not parents are to blame for this ongoing trend. Statement of Position
As a nurse, I take the position that parents are to be blamed for childhood obesity and it is our nation’s responsibility, particularly as healthcare workers, to educate parents and children so that we can decrease and eventually eliminate obesity in America. History/Previous Position Statements
The ANA is on board to support First Lady Obama in her stance against childhood obesity. The ANA also believes that if childhood obesity is not forcefully acted upon, American children will lead a life that is much shorter than any American generation to date. The ANA believes that parents as well as healthcare workers are the first to see the effects of obesity in children and these two groups collaboratively should be able to motivate children to be healthy (American Nurses Association, 2010).
Body mass index, or BMI, is used to specifically define obesity in both children and in adults. Obesity in children is defined as a BMI that is 95% above that of children of the same sex and the same age. Obese children are more likely to have diseases such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, and gallstones. They are also at risk for such things such as social discrimination and bullying. An obese child is more than likely to become an obese adult. “In the past 30 years, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than doubled among children ages 2-5, has tripled among youth ages 6-11, and has more than tripled among adolescents ages 12-19” (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2013).
Parents are the number one influence in a child’s life. This may change when a child reaches school age, as peers may have a greater effect on a child’s behavior. However, at the end of the day it is a parent’s sole responsibility to keep their child safe and healthy. As healthcare workers, we are able to educate parents on the appropriate ways to do this; as healthcare workers it is our responsibility and our duty. Statistics show that children who have obese parents are 31% more likely to be obese themselves. “A study in the Journal of Pediatrics, for instance, found five independent risk factors for childhood overweight. The main risk factor was parental weight” (Yale Medical Group, n.d.).
A family in America today is not like the family in America 30, 40, or 50 years ago. Today, children usually grow up in homes with a mom or a dad. If they are lucky enough to have both, most of the time both mom and dad are working. Even when I was younger, it was becoming more “socially acceptable” to have mom go off to work in the morning after you caught the bus. Does this really mean, however, that it is no longer a parent’s responsibility to make sure their child has a healthy breakfast before school or a healthy lunch at school during the day? How many families these days actually sit down at the dinner table and eat a well balanced meal together? How many children get home from school and are forced to heat up some bagel bites and sit in front of the television until mom or dad gets home from their busy day at work?
Parents and caregivers have to first and foremost find a way to allow their children to eat healthy. Eating habits develop early in childhood and a parent’s food preferences often influence and determine what it is that their child is going to eat. Understandably, it can be hard for parents to make the right choices with their child in mind because the cost of heating healthy is not cheap. Also, convenience and availability of things such as pizza and McDonalds becomes luring after a busy day at work. Parents need more support and education from healthcare workers in order to be knowledgeable enough to make the right decisions for themselves and for their children. This has to begin early in life as a new mother and continue on into childhood. The government also needs to step in with schemes to make healthy food choices more affordable and more available. I believe that eating healthy needs to start at home but it also needs to be brought into the schools as well.
Sedentary lifestyle has become such a problem for children these days. When I was younger, I remember on the weekends my parents telling me if I was going to have friends over we had to play outside. I remember staying out until 8 or 9 playing games outside with the neighbors up the street. I even remember my sister and I keeping ourselves occupied with games such as hopscotch and we spent afternoons swimming in our pool for hours. When you drive through neighborhoods today, where are all of the kids at? Kids are so consumed with technology such as cell phones and television that they hardly even realize that playing outside is something that used to be fun. According to the Neilsen Company, kids today are spending about 55 hours of television every week using media devices such as television, video games, and cell phones instead of spending their time after school or on the weekends outdoors.
There is even a name for this new phenomenon, called nature deficit disorder and videophilia (although my computer still recognizes this as a misspelled word) (Shapley, 2010). Why aren’t parents pushing their kids outside to play like my parents used to do? I did not have a cell phone until I was 18 and I definitely did not have a television in my room when I grew up. Are parents really too busy to realize how big of a problem the use of media has become for their children when they are wondering why their child is overweight? It is my belief that parents who model a healthy lifestyle by making the right choices about food and physical activity can positively influence their child’s health.
Parents are the first line of defense of childhood obesity. As adults we have to be in control of our kids and we have to be in charge. It is not acceptable to expect kids to make the right decisions for themselves without some sort of guidance from adults who should be more knowledgeable. Recommendations
The U.S. government has already begun to take steps to reduce childhood obesity by a program launched by First Lady Obama called Lets Move! “Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let’s Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices, providing healthier foods in our schools, ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food, and helping kids become more physically active” (LET’S MOVE, n.d.). Summary
Based on the current level of evidence it is clear to me that if obesity in America is going to be tackled, parents have to be more educated in order to be able to make healthier choices for their children and changes have to first be made within the home. Healthcare workers and government programs can assist in educating parents and families are ways to tackle and prevent childhood obesity, but parents need to take it in their own hands to be positive role models for their children.