According to the widespread beliefs, US lifestyle patterns are the ones considered to be the most threatening for human health. Poor nutrition and inactive lifestyle cause various illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, and obesity. Speaking of the latter, 71% of adults and 20% of adolescents in the US struggle with overweight and obesity (“Obesity and overweight,” 2016). Although the situation with both adults and children is crucial for the country, the issue of childhood obesity has become of major interest in the past few years. It is now being discussed due to a significant increase in the number of kids having excessive weight. In the course of this paper, the problem of childhood obesity across the country and the state of New Jersey, in particular, will be examined and explained. One of the paper’s primary goals is also to define possible ways of obesity prevention among children and adolescents.
In order to start a discussion, one should dwell upon the notion of obesity and its major health implications. According to scholars, obesity is a medical notion that implies accumulating body fat to such an excessive degree that it may cause some health issues (Li et al., 2017). While some diseases can be spread due to some economic issues, obesity is a threat to the residents of both developed and developing countries. The symbiosis of genetic, cultural, behavioral, and health human factors often lead to excessive weight, which later affects one’s lifestyle.
Speaking of childhood obesity, parents frequently tend to underestimate the fact of their kids being overweight. In order not to harm their children’s self-esteem or the feeling of personal worth, parents ignore the fact that their kids might be at high risk of acquiring long-term health issues. However, obesity, seeming safer than any well-known serious illnesses, often becomes a background for developing chronic diseases like hypertension (Li et al, 2017). Thus, the attitude towards excessive weight should be reconsidered in order to prevent children from having lifelong diseases at an early age.
The current trends of childhood obesity in the US are quite frightening in terms of radical increases in the number of overweight children. Modern researchers tend to compare the obesity statistics provided in the 1970s and one of the 2010s. In such a way, it could be noticed how lifestyle influences the disease expanding. Thus, in 1974, the rate of obese youth was no more than 5%, whereas 40 years later, in 2015 this number rose to more than 19% (“Overweight children and youth,” 2018). Speaking of the US as a multicultural country, ethnicity and economy highly impact the obesity trends due to their culturally and financially different nutrition patterns. For example, Hispanic children are more likely to get obesity at an early age as their national cuisine encourages high fats consumption and food cult as a part of ethnicity. Another important concern is the parents’ income because children who grow up in well-to-do families are more likely to consume organic food without added sugars.
However, the major common issue triggering the American community today is the tremendously high level of sugar intake among the residents. According to the 2019 data, Americans, on average, consume seventeen teaspoons or more than seventy grams of added sugars daily (Youn, 2019). Such a high level is also provoked by the popularity of sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola or Mtn. Dew, which is consumed by US society on a daily basis instead of water. The violation of nutrition patterns causes not only obesity and diabetes, but it also leads to visceral fat, i.e. the fat that covers human organs. Such a condition is hazardous for kids, whose organs may not be able to function properly and, thus, process food in the body. However, despite the nutritional imbalance, the overall percentage of people struggling with obesity is declining (Cheung, Cunningham, Naryan, & Kramer, 2016). Hence, all these factors led to a closer investigation on the topic of obesity factors in each US state.
Speaking of New Jersey’s statistics on childhood obesity, the number of children affected by overweight is quite disturbing. Statistics claim that more than one hundred thousand teenagers from New Jersey are obese, which constitutes more than 15% of the age group. Such data have led the state to the twenty-second position in the rank of the US states with the highest number of overweight children (Stainton, 2019). The average age of the group was from ten to seventeen years. The latest trends of childhood obesity in New Jersey include low rates of physical exercise and high rates of sugar consumption among high school students.
Although the number of obese children is impressive for the state, there is still a significant decline in childhood obesity over the last few years. In 2016, for example, New Jersey was in the fifteenth place in terms of childhood obesity rates (“The state of obesity in New Jersey,” 2019). Hence, in three years, the state’s overall rate moved down by six positions.
One of the main reasons for such a major decrease may be the active governmental engagement in the issue. Hence, in 2020, the local government of New Jersey declared a programme concerning the fight against factors that cause both adult and childhood obesity. New Jersey Department of Health’s obesity challenge is a part of a state-wide programme called “Healthy New Jersey 2020” (“Healthy NJ 2020 | Obesity challenge,” 2020). The main reasons behind children having excessive weight are the absence of physical exercise and poor quality of food. The latter concerns not only the nutrition at home, as it may depend on the economic aspects of a family, but the food provided at schools as well. According to the statistics, the increase in high school students’ obesity rate before the start of the challenge constituted 10.9% (“Healthy NJ 2020 | Obesity challenge,” 2020). The goal of the challenge is to diminish this number to 7.8%, and the first results can be already visible in the statistics.
One of the means to cope with the issue is to reconsider the quality of goods children eat at school during lunches. The local government has recently urged the US administration to establish proper requirements for the school lunches. According to the principles of quality nutrition, lunches at school should be whole grains, low sodium, and low fat. Sugary drinks, thus, should be excluded from the students’ diet. Another critical issue concerning the increase in high school students’ obesity rate is a common belief that organic and healthy food is unaffordable. In the case of New Jersey, this pattern is particularly true, as the average price of food with fat and added sugars is relatively cheaper. Hence, the decision was made to increase the affordability of healthy food as well as to expand the food market with organic goods such as fruits and vegetables.
Besides having nutrition issues, state community is also struggling with a lack of physical activity. It especially concerns school students, as children aged 2 – 5 years are mostly active. The statistics claim that among high school students, currently, only 41% of New Jersey’s youth is physically active (“Healthy NJ 2020 | Obesity challenge,” 2020). The goal for this year is to increase this number by 10% and make the vast majority of high school students practice physical activity on a daily basis. Hence, modern patterns of dealing with obesity in New Jersey show that the state’s condition has a strong tendency to drastically decreasing the number of obese children. If the goals set by the local government are executed properly, the state and the US, in general, will soon benefit from the increase in the number of healthy citizens.
Taking everything into consideration, it can be concluded that the current state of obesity across the country requires immediate action. New Jersey, being on the twenty-second place in the nation-wide obesity rate, has declared a challenge to overcome this tendency in 2020. Speaking of childhood obesity, since the most crucial disease triggers are nutrition and physical activity, parents should pay more attention to their children’s lifestyle. In such a way, once kids have ingrained behavioral patterns, they will be able to avoid mistakes in the future and, thus, decrease the level of adult obesity across the United States.
Cheung, P. C., Cunningham, S. A., Narayan, K. M., & Kramer, M. R. (2016). Childhood Obesity Incidence in the United States: A Systematic Review. Childhood obesity, 12(1), 1–11.
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Li, L., Wang, G., Li, N., Yu, H., Si, J., & Wang, J. (2017). Identification of key genes and pathways associated with obesity in children. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 14, 1065-1073.
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Stainton, L. H. (2019). New Jersey ranked 22nd in nation for rate of childhood obesity. Web.
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Youn, G. (2019). Daily sugar intake. Web.