Childhood Obesity: Causes and Prevention – Essay Sample

Childhood obesity is a major concern for parents, teachers, and the medical community with differing philosophies and theories on causes and prevention. Inactivity, genetics, technology and parenting attitudes and beliefs are factors which contribute to childhood obesity. Peer pressure and social circles also create an epidemic of children overweight or obese. Intervention by parents, physicians and the educational system with support and nutrition with physical activity instruction can help create a culture of informed children.

Childhood obesity is a major concern for parents, teachers and health care providers. Children will gain weight as they grow and develop. The problem presents when a child has extra pounds not needed for normal growth and development. Extra weight leads to obesity and particularly for a young child or adolescent can create serious medical conditions continuing into adulthood. Researching and determining particular and specific causes for childhood obesity can help in educating and motivating children and parents towards behavior changes to correct and prevent childhood obesity.

Criteria for determining obesity in children rely on body mass index (BMI) in relation to overall weight, age, height and body structure. A BMI in children ages 6 to 19 years of age between the 85th and 94th percentiles is considered in the normal range, while anything over the 95th percentile is considered obese (Hampl and Summar, 2009). While there are many factors believed to be directly related to childhood obesity, the parents’ perception of weight and healthy lifestyles directly impact children. Not all unhealthy conscious parents will produce unhealthy children; the effect still remains on a child’s upbringing.

Beyond a child’s upbringing, there are genetic factors which play a role in childhood obesity. Excess weight is typically caused by overeating and exercising too little. However, there are some hormonal and genetic causes contributing to childhood obesity. Cushing’s syndrome is one example of a medically predisposed reason for weight problems in children. This condition occurs when the body experiences high levels of the hormone cortisol for an extended period of time. Along with increased weight it can cause high blood pressure, bone loss and diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2008).

Physical activity and social interaction are also factors in childhood obesity. Luisa Franzini, (2009) through a research study found that neighborhood social factors as well as the physical environment affect childhood obesity and the importance of health policies and interventions to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity. With the documented evidence of health related problems associated with obesity, it is important to enlist parents, educators and health care providers to address the problem of overweight children and the dynamics of how diet, activity and social interaction affect an individual. Sarah Barlow, (2002) conducted a study on the rise in childhood obesity and recognizes the vital component clinicians’ plays in the role of identifying the problem and assess the risk factors for that individual.


A thorough search of online databases was used to identify relevant and significant peer-reviewed journal articles related to childhood obesity and the causes and preventions for this condition. ProQuest Medical Library was the primary search engine used; access provided by Florida Gulf Coast University with a search limited to a period of 10 years. Search phases used to retrieve appropriate articles included ‘childhood obesity’ and ‘childhood obesity in youth’ and childhood obesity and activity.’ Secondary sources were consulted including medical universities such as the Mayo Clinic was included for supplemental information. Themes discovered included the concepts of parental and social influence, diet and activity.

Eleven papers were reviewed and are included in the findings supporting this literature review on childhood obesity. Several focused on medical evaluation of childhood obesity and the identification of problems early in life (Barlow, Dietz, Klish, and Trowbridge, 2002), (Hampl and Summar, 2009), and (Harker and Saguil, 2009) conducted studies to show the relevance of early detection. The benefits of physical activity and fitness as a preventive and corrective measure were recorded also in a few articles (Morrow and Ede, 2009), (Dwyer, Magnussen, Schmidt and Ukoumunne, 2009). A study of the nutritional significance was researched (Moore, Pawloski, Goldberg and Mi Oh, 2009), as well as infant feeding and childhood obesity (Butte, 2009). Communication (Daniel, 2009) and neighborhood social circles were also a theme in the articles (Cecil-Karb and Grogan-Kaylor, 2009) and (Franzini, Elliott, Cuccaro, and Schuster, 2009). Familial factors were also included in the articles researched (Nsiah-Kumi, Ariza, Mikhail, Feinglass, and Binns, 2009).

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