Moreover, the effect this disease has on children is far more complicated. Clearly, there is a dearth in the literature regarding childhood obesity. In order to address this problem, this essay will review the current literature available regarding childhood obesity and its underlying causes. It aims to provide a sketch regarding the topic, and mark the starting point for possible research directions that could be taken to better understand the disease, and hopefully treat and prevent it in the future.
Child obesity is one of the most challenging issues facing healthcare providers today. It has become an epidemic not only in North America, but in the whole world as well. According to statistics, approximately 22 million children under 5 years of age are overweight across the world, where the number of overweight children and adolescents has doubled in the last two to three decades, including in developing countries and regions where an increase in Western behavioral and dietary lifestyles is evident (Deckelbaum & Williams, 2001). According to Ganz (2003),
Overweight is the most common health problem among young people in the United States today. In the past three decades, the proportion of overweight children and adolescents has increased 2- to 3-fold. Currently, 15% of children are overweight, with a similar number who are heavy enough to be at risk for obesity. Overweight in childhood confers a greater risk for adult obesity, as well as a number of other chronic health conditions. Clearly, overweight is a major heath issue facing our nation.
In addition, the journal article, "Childhood Obesity: Future Directions and Research Priorities" (Hill, 1998), also warns of the expectation that the next generation of children is likely to be fatter and less fit than the current generation due to the low priority given to childhood obesity in the public agenda. The authors argue for the need to prioritize research agendas in the future, particularly in the etiology, treatment, and prevention of childhood obesity; and the need to move the issue of childhood obesity higher in the public agenda.
Schonfeld-Warden & Warden (1997), in another study entitled "Pediatric Obesity: An Overview of Etiology and Treatment," also indicates that the primary reasons for the increasing upward trends of child obesity are the combination of sedentary behaviors and diet. He argues that fat content in American diets has increased because more foods with higher fat contents are now available.
Unfortunately, finding an effective treatment for the disease is a daunting task. According to Tanios (2000), there are three reasons why it has been difficult for people today to treat obesity, he enumerates: (1) the disinterest society has had on the disease because it was never considered as a major health problem before; (2) the availability of refined foods abundant today; and (3) the tendency for the disease to be inherited. Obesity, and child obesity in particular, is therefore a complex disease, and underlying causes for it are poorly understood.
Nature vs. Nurture: The Interplay of Factors
In order to understand the complexity of child obesity as a disease, it is imperative to first identify the cause of the disease. There are two general arguments that explain the cause of obesity. On the one hand, there is the contention that obesity is caused by a