Child Obesity Guam
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Child Obesity Guam
As the world fights child malnutrition, and the number of children faced by malnutrition is reducing, childhood obesity is turning into a global issue. Globally, more than half a billion adults with the prevalence rate being 10% men and 14% in women. In the year 2008, compared to the 1980 prevalence, which was 5% in men and 8% in women1. In the US, it is estimated that child obesity is around 17%. According to a study by the University of Guam, more than 27% of kids aged between 2 and 8 were obese or overweight by August 2020. Children who are obese are at a higher risk of becoming overweight adolescents and adults, putting them at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in their life later on2. Many causes of child obesity are preventable and changeable, and they include physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits. Other factors that are not preventable include genetic factors and medical conditions, including hormonal problems. Medical tests and sample blood tests are effective in testing for medical conditions as a cause of obesity. Suppose a combined effort by various stakeholders is not put in place. In that case, the cases of childhood obesity will continue to rise, and the prevalence of chronic infections will also increase among children and young adults in Guam.
Description of The Issue
Guam is a territory of the US that is located in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. Chamorros are considered the native ethnic group of Guam, although Guam consists of various ethnic groups3. A large study was undertaken to look at the intensity of childhood obesity in Guam. The study, which was named “Overweight and Obesity Prevalence Among Public School Children in Guam,” was conducted by John Hopkins University after law 28-87 in 2005 was passed, allowing the department of health to take the BMI measurements of all school-going children in Guam. The five-year study results indicate that Guam has a higher obesity rate compared to the rest of the US. Researchers in this study indicated that Guam was a center of interest in childhood obesity and overweight, bearing in mind that globally, 10% of the children are overweight. In comparison, 2-3% are obsessed4. Guam is far from the worldwide and national statistics as with 15-16% of the childhood overweight and an overwhelming 19-27% rate of obesity. Even though the average of obesity among children declined from 23.6% to 22.6%, it is still too high3. Later on, in 2015, the University of Guam conducted another study that indicated that the child obesity rate was 27%, which was still high.
Technology has changed how things used to be done in the past, which has greatly affected how people associate. In the past, people used to visit each other and go for walks with their children. During their free time, children also used to go out and play, which would make them physically active5. The current society of computers and smartphones has changed this. Children now spend all their days on the couch, their eyes stuck on the TV or computer, playing computer games and watch movies and other entertainment materials. However, what parents fail to recognize is that they put their children at risk of becoming obese. According to the CDC, a child between the age of 3-5 years should be active throughout the day for growth and development. Children and adolescents aged 6-17 years should be active for one hour or more6. CDC posits that children and adolescents between the ages of 6-17 should spend around 1 hour in moderate to vigorous physical activities. Other activities such as running and jumping, which strengthen the bones, should be incorporated for their days a week. Other activities such as climbing and doing push-ups should be done three days a week as they strengthen the muscles and cut the number of cholesterols in the body significantly.
The study by the University of Guam found that 85% of Guam children spend more than the tow hour recommended screen time. The averages screen time was 5 hours, which was also comparable with other regions in the US. Inadequate physical excises could cause a high rate of obesity in Guam and other parts of the world5. The neighborhood’s traditional view has been eliminated, and now children do not share playgrounds as they used to do before. In this case, parents are required to ensure that their children are physically active by encouraging them and engaging them in those activities such as going for a walk, hiking, and playing. However, most parents are busy at work, and when they arrive home, they have no time to play with the children or enquire if the children played during the day. Therefore, children spend all day doing their days doing their favorite things, which are mostly physically inactive6. It is also argued that the more time children spend in the house and close to food, the more they are prone to eating a lot of food, which contributes to them getting overweight.
One factor that researchers from the University of Guam fear could be the high cases of obesity in Guam among the children involved in the study is unhealthy eating habits. It is established that the number of calories that a person eats impacts their weight directly7. If a person consumes enough calories that the body can burn out, then that person’s bodyweight stays stable. However, if a person takes more calories than the body requires, then the bodyweight goes up. The type of food also determines the weight of a person. Some foods that prevent people from getting chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are also believed to be good in weight control, and they include foods such as whole grain and vegetable fruits and nuts1. Some other types of foods are known to increase the weight of a person and, at the same time, increase the chances of developing a chronic infection, and they include processed foods and sugary foods.
Among the children involved in the study, 83% of them consumed sweet and sugary beverages, while the recommended consumption is zero6. 80% of the population in Guam considers itself as westernized. The children who participated in the study and hailed from these families consumed high fats and sugars, and processed foods. In the study’s findings, this eating behavior increased the chances of becoming overweight for these children.
Low Socioeconomic Status
Healthy foods are usually priced higher than unhealthy foods, and this poses a major challenge to poor families in the US and the western world in general. As a result, the rate of obesity is increasing rapidly among the poor who are being forced to eat unhealthy foods due to pricing. On the other hand, the rich afford healthier food such as fresh vegetables and fruits and enjoy food that is homecooked2. The poor cannot afford the fruits and vegetables and thus opt for processed foods and beverages. According to a study carried out in 2010, the poverty levels in Guam were 22.50%, and this meant that the number of people living below the poverty line of 5.55% was also high. It means that in this population of 22.50% of the total Guam population cannot afford to put healthy food on their tables. As a result, more than 58% of the children who the University of Guam study established had bad eating habits were from poor backgrounds, and around 80% of them were under government aid3.
Children are dependent on their parents for their diet, and when parents give them anything, children get used to it, and it becomes daily food. Parents in the western world are too busy making money to forget that they are the guardians of what their children eat. Children have, therefore, become dependent on packed foods for most of their meals8. Research has indicated that over the past four decades, consuming fast foods outside the home has increased significantly. Even when children go out with their parents, they always tend to eat fast food, which is unhealthy and puts them at the risk of obesity due to the increased energy density of fast foods.
In relation to poverty, the parents in Guam find themselves trapped by poverty to take foods that they can afford, which are processed foods. They cannot afford natural and healthy foods to cook for their families, and thus they have no option but to feed their children on fast foods, which increase their BMI5. With the high levels of poverty in Guam, children are more likely to be fed on donated packed foods, and when parents buy food, they buy them packed foods also, which could be the cause of the high rate of obesity.
Food availability is linked to the availability of food stores in an area. In this line, if the only food stores in an area only serve fast foods, then the area’s population may be forced to opt for the available fast foods. The term food deserts have been used to describe the areas that do not have places such as supermarkets to access healthy foods9. Food deserts vary significantly depending on the neighborhood, social, economic status of an area, and racial composition. Fast foods have been attributed to the rising levels of obesity both in children and in adults. Some areas in Guam that are affected by poverty could be possible food deserts, which could also be another factor leading to the high rate of childhood obesity.
If no control measures are put in place, then the numbers of childhood obesity will continue to rise. Childhood obesity comes with several risks, such as developing chronic infections such as high blood pressure and diabetes. A child who is obese could get some breathing problems and asthma9. Sleep apnea, which disturbs the child’s sleeping process, has also been linked to obesity. Children who are obese are also more likely joint and muscle problems as they struggle to maintain a large bodyweight. Several psychological problems have also been linked to obesity, including anxiety, low self-esteem, stress, and depression resulting from bullying and stigma by other children7. If the children in Guam are allowed to continue with the unhealthy lifestyles, they are more likely to jump into adulthood with obesity increasing the number of adults with obesity. Even if the child does not develop any complications as a child, the chances of developing the same as an adult are also high. Therefore, the situation of child obesity in Guam must be taken seriously, and affirmative action is taken.
Children’s Healthy Living Program for Remote Underserved Minority Populations in the Pacific Region, which is sponsored by the government of Guam, University of Guam, and all schools, is a program that aims at identifying children with a weight problem and formulating possible interventions for them 10. Under this project, Guam’s government coordinated the walk for the wellness program, which was aimed at instilling the walking habit among Guam residents, which would also have a direct impact on the children.
Guam’s government can also help in a significant way as far as the issue of child obesity is concerned. Schools could be offered lunch which could be made of healthy foods. In a similar vein, schools could initiate physical exercise classes for all students. As this issue goes beyond the school, it is important that the community is educated about child obesity, how to prevent it, how to help children already affected, and its effects. With awareness, people are more likely to put measures that will help curb the rate of childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity is an issue that requires a multifaceted solution, and thus various stakeholders need to chip in and do their part. Childhood obesity in Guam is more worrying as it is higher than the national and global rates. Various causes, such as genetics, unhealthy lifestyles, and medical conditions. However, key among the causes of childhood obesity is an unhealthy lifestyle. Children in Guan are exposed to obesity due to physical inactivity due to more screen time and less play. Poor diet leading to accumulation of calories. Poverty, environmental, and dietary factors are also probable causes of childhood obesity. If no action is taken, there is a possibility of the children affected. Those that will be affected in the future will develop some complications either as children or later in life. Therefore, a program to create awareness on the issue should be initiated, and the people educated on it.