Adam, fifteen years old, realizes the predicament he is entwined in. His blood pressure is soaring, with his cholesterol being a close runner up. His abnormal weight severely strains his bones and joints, while lack of sleep due to sleep apnea creates deep circles beneath his eyes. On top of all of that, Adam has just been informed that he is diagnosed with prediabetes. This could later in his life lead to type 2 diabetes.
Adam is one of the many children who suffer from childhood obesity. This increasing problem is only worsening. Fingers point to the unhealthy cafeteria foods being served in schools, vending machines stuffed with highly fattening snacks and sugary sodas; the temptation is just too much for most teens. Intimidating immediate health risks, as well as long-term health risks of childhood obesity, can be easily prevented, starting with schools. Child obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.
Not doubled, but tripled. In the year of 2008, over a third of children and teenagers were considered either overweight or obese. An immediate health effect that obesity imposes would be cardiovascular disease; this can include either high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Did you know that over 70% of obese youth showed at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in a group of 5 to 17 year olds? Often times, these adolescents acquire prediabetes; this is a condition where blood glucose levels show a high risk for an increased chance of diabetes. As well as bone and joint problems, obesity also contributes to sleep apnea.
Childhood obesity has also been found to cause certain adult diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Adult obesity can result in cancers such as cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostrate. Unbelievably, the list goes on. I think one of the most painful parts of obesity is probably emotional suffering. American society and media stresses physical appearance and often associates attractiveness with slimness for women, while associating being fit and muscular for men. These can be portrayed in airbrushed photos in magazines, or billboards with unattainable standards.
We need to stop focusing so much on the numbers on the scale, but the inner health of our body. These do not send out positive messages and can make people considered overweight or obese feel unappealing, along with rejection, shame, and depression. When all hope seems to fade, people are reaching out to make a difference in school cafeterias. The National Farm to School lunch program is one of the organizations striving to provide healthy cafeteria food. According to the National Farm to School website “Farm to School is broadly defined as a program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.” As you can see from this passage, involving more schools in this program not only helps improve food in schools, but it also supports local farmers.
Farm to School programs now function in several hundred school districts in 19 states, potentially opening doors to new learning opportunities throughout the country as well. Another program would be Sip Smart! BC, which teaches grades four to six about sugary drinks and making healthy drink choices. Enrolling elementary children in this program can help imprint healthy habits at a young age, in turn lowering obesity rates in youths. This program is now available to download online not just for teachers, but for families as well. This can help incorporate healthier drinking choices in the home atmosphere, as well as the school atmosphere.
In doing so, kids can receive full motivation at all times to make better decisions. Millions of children suffer from childhood obesity. The blame always seems to be placed on everyone’s shoulders when in all reality, it’s the people who chose to ignore this growing problem that deserve the blame. It is time to take action. Why should any more generations have to suffer if we can fix this right now? Think of a day when not one school cafeteria serves fattening foods or sugary drinks.
Think of a day they instead strive for a healthier tomorrow in children’s lives and well-being. Think of a day when not one child has to experience the pain of being overweight or obese. Go out there and make this vision a reality.