Saturday, October 26, 2013

Childhood Obesity: Who's at Fault?

About two week ago, I came across the article   The 'real shape of the American man: Dudes, you're porky! (Bill Briggs, 2013). The article featured a computer-generated diagram of the shape of the average 30-39 year-old man from four different countries, including the U.S. The diagram showed, that compared to the three other countries, American men are a lot heavier or "porkier" than men from the Netherlands, Japan and France. According to one source sixty-nine percent of American men over that age of 20 years old are easier overweight or obese. This fact was further underlined by the illustration by Nickolay Lamm.  

This got me thinking about Jamaica and our current battle against the bulge. Something I find even more disturbing than obesity among adults is that which faces the younger generation and our nation's future. Kids today look so different from when I was growing. Whereas the chubby kid in class was the exception, they've now become the norm. And the numbers don't lie either.  According to the National Non Communicable Disease Committee,  11 percent of Jamaican children ages 10 to 15 years and 35 percent of teenagers ages 15 to 18 years are either overweight or obese. The future that lies ahead does not seem so promising as overweight and obesity during childhood are common indicators for obesity in adulthood. some health impacts include increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and several types of cancers.  

While the NCD committee strives to tackle the issue, I can't help but wonder who really is responsible  in fighting this epidemic. The Jamaican government through the NCD committee tries to get handle on the problem, I wonder if there will be any real success. As they pointed out, this is a multilateral issue.

As a society, we can't escape the role that we play. Society as a whole has a very hands-washing approach to childhood obesity. "My kids aren't fat, so it's not my problem." Whilst that may be seem correct, we all shoulder the financial cost of childhood obesity. In the US, childhood obesity alone cost $3 billion. Is that number big enough to make it our problem? Another problem is discussion about weight has become so taboo. We've come to point in society where accept me as I am is the order of the day. So who are you to criticize my weight? I'm fluffy and fabulous! But avoidance of talking about weight is not the right way to go. If parents are afraid to talk with their kids about eating habits and weight issues, how are they maintain a healthy weight? If we indulge his every craving because he's a "growing kid", how will they learn self-control? Are we okay with others, such as educators in our school system, addressing the issue if we don't want to?

Clearly, each of us has a part to play. What do you think?  


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