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Childhood Obesity


Childhood obesity denotes excess weight in persons under eighteen years. During the developmental years, the definition of excess fatness becomes blurred. The close relationship between childhood and adulthood obesity is theoretically and empirically evidenced from numerous studies. Most of the causes of childhood obesity have propagated the formulation of policy based prevention approaches, mostly by WHO and IOM.


Wechsler, McKenna, Lee and Dietz indicated that childhood obesity is a medical condition resulting from excessive body fat in persons aged under eighteen years. The assessment of body fat is most effectively done through body mass index (BMI), which takes into consideration a multiplicity of parameters including height and age. According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported cases of childhood obesity have doubled since 1980. WHO also indicate that more than 33% of children were overweight in 2012, with adolescence obesity trickling down from childhood obesity. This has caused a multi-sectorial response from a range of stakeholders including parents, schools, health care institutions and governments, mainly focusing on causes, pathophysiology and management of childhood obesity.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Although BMI is the most viable metric for childhood obesity, shortfalls originate from the fact that children are still in their developmental stages. Apparently, true fatness is not a definite parameter at that age, and furthermore, the proportion of their height to weight is loosely defined. In spite of this shortfall, there is a significant increase in the BMIs of children in the US as indicated by the National Health and nutrition Examination Surveys in the years between 1980 and 2000. The most prominent causes include the following.

  • Aspects of nutritional intake
  • Reduction in physical activity
  • Genetic predispositions
  • Increase in preference for sedentary activities
  • Increase in adult obesity

Risks Associated with Childhood Obesity

Obesity is predominantly a lifestyle condition, posing direct and indirect adverse effects to the health of the individual and society at large. Schwartz, and Puhl (2002) pointed out that most of the risks associated with childhood obesity become apparent in adulthood. The prevalent risks include:

  • Diabetes (type-2)
  • Eating disorders
  • Orthopedic conditions, affecting formation of lower limbs
  • Endocrinal and liver problems
  • Respiratory conditions featuring cardiomyopathy
  • Socio-psychological conditions

Management of Childhood Obesity

According to IOM, policy-based prevention approaches have become common place, especially after revelation of the staggering rates of childhood obesity across the globe. WHO supported the policy-based approach, by indicating that the trickle down effects to adulthood and the accompanying socio-economic repercussions have propagated the identification of structured strategies to prevent and manage this healthcare problem. The primary population-based approach is change in, or enhancement of lifestyles targeting the identified causes as indicated by WHO. Changes in dietary plans, exercise and physical activity. Information availability targeting parents and society at large is also expected to transform lifestyle choices across the globe.


Obesity, previously an adulthood challenge has crept into younger generations. The changes in lifestyles among children, in the face of changing societal and family structure is directly and indirectly attributable. An increase in the BMI of persons aged under 18 years has resulted to recognition of childhood obesity as a global challenge. The recognizable causes revolve around lifestyle choices, hinged on diet and level of activity. Policy interventions have also focused on provision of information at household, societal and territorial echelons.