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Research Paper: The Epidemic of Childhood Obesity


The epidemic of childhood obesity has been on a sharp rise in the past few decades in America. While many people are trying to combat this epidemic, it still needs more than just one solution. Childhood obesity has been linked with many health problems in children and adults. It increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and other illnesses. It also impacts the ability to lead an everyday life at home or work with physical limitations caused by obesity, such as mobility problems or arthritis. Since childhood obesity affects not just adults but children themselves, its impact is felt even before adulthood; there is now a greater need for prevention early on in children’s lives to prevent these future health problems from developing as they grow into adults (Katzmarzyk et al. 848). Containing childhood obesity is an issue of a problem that needs to be addressed and has the possibility of being one of the best ways to improve society as a whole. Obesity in children is having a significant impact on the economic costs of this epidemic. It has been estimated that childhood obesity costs 16 billion dollars a year in health care (Strauss et al. 85). In addition, obese preschoolers are more likely to become obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to produce even more obese children, which keeps costs related to childhood obesity at an exponential rate. Obesity also negatively affects society by increasing health care costs due to its effect on children’s ability to lead everyday lives and the inevitable loss of productivity that results from lack of physical limitations caused by obesity later in life. This research paper will focus on looking at the factors, causes, and prevention of childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a growing public health problem in the United States requiring immediate action and long-term prevention.

Literature Review

Childhood obesity has always been around, but rates of increase in the United States have been on a sharp rise since 1980. In the past few decades, childhood obesity has been one of the most commonly discussed issues in American politics. In 2018, a bill was introduced to the House of Representatives that would research the epidemic of childhood obesity and put forth recommendations to combat it. Renee Johnson of the House Education and Workforce Committee said, “Obesity is an epidemic that affects every community in America. It is not only a health issue but also an economic issue” (Strauss et al., 87). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in 2019 showing that childhood obesity has increased by 30% in the past thirty years, with 11.3% of children aged 6-19 being obese, which rises from 8% in 1980. While these numbers are high, they are just estimates, and actual numbers may be even higher since not all schools report data to the CDC (Lee et al. 660).

Obesity News has also been focusing on this epidemic for some time now. The article “Fast Food Nation” discusses the many reasons why society needs to make a change regarding how we look at food in our community. It suggests that the main issue with childhood obesity is the high amount of calories present in most fast food meals. “It’s not just about a few isolated cases of individual children who eat at fast-food restaurants too much and exercise too little; it’s about the mounting body of evidence showing that our entire culture is becoming fat, sedentary and diseased – because we are what we eat, and increasingly, we’re eating this” (Katzmarzyk et al. 848). Other news sources have also been providing information on this epidemic as well. The article “How to Solve the Obesity Epidemic” suggests that we need to look at many different factors to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity. It also shows that it may not just be one solution either. It is a combination of changes in society, including family life, food, physical activity, and education (Lee et al., 661). This epidemic’s literature has been enormous and often includes many statistics from outside sources. These statistics allow us to get an idea of the potential magnitude of this issue based on known numbers.

Factors Leading to the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

Factors & patterns that have been identified concerning the increase in childhood obesity include:

Physical Activity

Physical activity has a direct correlation with obesity levels in children. Studies have shown that children who participate in physical activity are, on average, less likely to be obese than children who do not participate in any form of physical activity. The lack of physical activity has become a significant issue in the lives of children today. In 2018 it was estimated that only 1 out of 4 children in the United States reported doing 60 minutes or more of physical activity on any given day (Strauss et al. 90). The other 75% of children do not meet even minimum recommendations for physical activity, which is one of the most significant factors for the increase in obesity over time. In addition, most elementary schools are cutting back on physical education classes due to budgets being cut and increasing health costs. This creates an issue since physical education class is proven as a safe place for children to play and exercise without fear or judgment.

Fast Food Consumption

The other major issue gaining a lot of attention is the issue of food. More and more children are eating fast food daily, one of the most significant contributors to obesity. There have also been drastic changes in the nutritional value of food and even the way our food is being prepared. In 2019, it was estimated that 33% of children reported eating fast food at least once a week. This statistic has only been increasing over time as well. This is alarming as fast food meals have been proven to be high in calories and fat than home-cooked meals, which tend to be more nutritional. In addition, children appear to be eating out more often than before, linked to obesity in adults. It is also becoming apparent that meal portion sizes are becoming larger and larger, which contributes to obesity as well (Katzmarzyk et al. 848).

Sedentary Lifestyles

In addition to physical activity, there has also been a significant increase in passive activities in childhood. Over the past few decades, technology has become not only a tool for children but has become their primary form of entertainment. Children spend most of their free time watching television, playing video games, and using other forms of high-tech entertainment instead of being active. This is becoming one of the significant factors for increasing obesity rates since it keeps kids from being active and participating in other activities (Nga et al., 2498). It also creates an environment that promotes sitting all day. In addition, children are being exposed to food commercials before they even enter school, which leads them to become interested in the sugary treats they see on television.

Prevalence of Fast-Food Restaurants

Another issue raised in the distribution of fast-food restaurants in the United States. Many areas of the country have more fast food restaurants than grocery stores in today’s society. This creates an issue because children don’t have access to healthy and nutritious foods due to a lack of accessibility. In addition, many areas in America are beginning to “urban sprawl,” which means that larger chain fast food restaurants are taking over neighborhoods rather than small local mom and pop stores. This creates an issue because children are more likely to consume fast food regularly, which may become a problem due to the high-calorie content of these meals (Lee et al. 664).

Prevention Methods

Preventing obesity involves a variety of techniques which include:


This is the main focus when it comes to prevention. Parents need to be educated on the risks of childhood obesity and its effects on children’s overall health. Most parents are unaware of their children’s dangers by being obese, and they do not know how to prevent it either. Parents must provide healthy meals and snacks in addition to encouraging their children to become active at least 60 minutes a day (Nga et al., 2496). Prevention programs need to be taught in schools because children spend most of their day in school, and schools play an essential role as a safe environment for physical activity.

Nutritional Counseling

It is believed that there is a strong correlation between childhood obesity and food insecurity. This means that there are families who cannot afford healthy foods and prepare healthy meals for their families. It has been proven that when children have nutritional counseling, they tend to eat far healthier regularly. This is a significant issue since many children are not eating properly due to the lack of nutritious foods in many households. Young children are more likely to be malnourished and obese than older children, so it is essential that nutrition counseling be encouraged as soon as possible (Strauss et al. 88).

Active Lifestyle Intervention

It is believed that the best way to prevent obesity is to create an active lifestyle for children. One of the ways that children can become more active is through school programs. It has been found that school programs tend to be very effective in encouraging physical activity, especially among girls. This may be one of the most effective ways to resist obesity since it allows children an environment that they are familiar with and can relate to, resulting in them being more motivated (Lee et al., 666). However, not all schools have access to these programs, and many do not want to spend the money on them.


In conclusion, childhood obesity is a growing public health problem in the United States requiring immediate action and long-term prevention. As the U.S. population continues to age, it will become a larger and larger cause for concern as there will be a more significant number of obese and unhealthy individuals in America than there are healthy and fit. Even small changes in behavior can prevent large numbers of people from becoming obese, so this must be taken into consideration. The cause of childhood obesity is complex, but many of the most common changes in today’s society can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. The increase in childhood obesity has been linked to many factors, and the most common is physical inactivity combined with poor diet, but cultural, social, and economic factors play a vital role as well. Parents need to educate themselves about these factors to minimize their children’s risks of becoming obese.

Work Cited

Strauss, W. J., et al. “The longitudinal relationship between community programs and policies to prevent childhood obesity and BMI in children: the Healthy Communities Study.” Pediatric obesity 13 (2018): 82-92.

Katzmarzyk, Peter T., et al. “International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE): contributions to understanding the global obesity epidemic.” Nutrients 11.4 (2019): 848.

Lee, Eun Young, and Kun-Ho Yoon. “Epidemic obesity in children and adolescents: risk factors and prevention.” Frontiers of medicine 12.6 (2018): 658-666.

Nga, Vu Thi, et al. “School education and childhood obesity: A systemic review.” Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews 13.4 (2019): 2495-2501.


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