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Obesity in Young Children, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1310

Research Paper

The subject of obesity in young children is becoming very threatening to the health of young children in the United States.  Obesity in young children is an epidemic, without qualification.  Miller reports that the frequency of overweight children of greater than the 85th percentile in body mass index (BMI) has tripled over the past 30 years (Miller, Rosenbloom & Silverstein).  Obesity in young children is an issue that is dwindling in the United States and affecting many children’s health.

In looking at the causes that are related to physical education (PE) programs, an important recommendation for seeking to help prevent obesity in young children is found in changes to PE programs.  This will help prevent obesity in young children, and especially in young girls.  Based on findings regarding the statistics of children in levels of PE programs, some simple changes could produce more drastic results.

Reason One – PE Programs

According to the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM), there has not been a national study that has evaluated currently implemented PE programs in the United States in relationship to reducing overweight children (“Obesity in Young Children”).  In light of the statistics of young children in PE classes, such as found by the NIHCM, students do not receive enough instruction.  To make matters worse, students that are in low-income areas or families are more likely to be without PE in kindergarten.

There are wide variations in the amount of PE young children receive.  According to “Obesity in Young Children,” 59% have PE 1-2 times per week in kindergarten.  Once they go into the 1st grade, 37% increase PE time, 44% maintain kindergarten levels, 8% go to no PE to some PE, 19% have less instruction, and 2% stop receiving PE in 1st grade.  Looking at these figures, it is reasonable to state that these are impacting figures across the United States in obesity in young children.

Reason Two – Mental Health

This is another area that has impacted young children in regards to obesity.  Previously there has not been much literature on the interrelationship between obesity and mental health factors.  External and internal behaviors are seen to have a clearer relationship with obesity in young children.

A study was conducted by the NICHM that is found in “Obesity in Young Children.”  Overweight girls are more likely to have behavior problems at the beginning of kindergarten than those that are not overweight.  In regards to the onset of behavior problems for those that have none, maternal depression and low family income are the strongest predictors for the development of new behavior problems.

Reason 3 – School Performance

The NICHM has also studied the relationship between academic performance and obesity in young children.  It claims to be the first to study this relationship (“Obesity in Young Children”).  In looking at past relationships between older individuals with obesity and poor school performance, it was examined in young children to see if such a relationship existed with this age group.

The study reveals some insight into the issue.  In “Obesity in Young Children,” overweight children had lower math and reading test scores than those who were not overweight in kindergarten.  The mother’s education and race/ethnicity were seen to be the cause, except for overweight boys, where being overweight is a likely cause.  More research will be needed to see the effects of being overweight on resulting test scores and overall academic achievement for young children.

Proposed Solution

PE programs must be part of the changes that are involved in a potential solution to this epidemic.  For the most part, PE programs in schools have been reduced or eliminated, in respect to all children (Miller).  In view of the previous statistics for young children specifically, we can see the trend towards PE programs from young children into the later years of their childhood.  It is clear that some changes need to occur.

Establishing more time for young children in PE programs could institute the change needed in the exercise habits of young children.  From the NICHM, increasing PE time to 5 hours per week could reduce the prevalence of being overweight among girls by 4.2 percentage points, and those who are at-risk by 9.2 percentage points (“Obesity in Young Children”).  According to their prospected analysis, such changes could be drastically beneficial to the health of young children.  While some sacrifices would have to be made in regards to the school schedule, concessions could be arranged for these eminent benefits.

PE programs could have a much more pronounced effect in the health and prevalence of obesity in young children.  For instance, in “Obesity in Young Children,” the NICHM reports that merely 30 minutes per week could reduce prevalence of being overweight for girls by 5%, and that of at-risk girls by 10%.  The report cites successful programs in Spokane, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia that have made strides to increase this potential impact of PE programs on the health and obesity issues of young children.

Implementing a number of changes could promote drastic effects in the health of young children.  Making widespread changes to having PE programs in place would be the first step.  Additionally, ensuring that the children have adequate time in PE class would be instrumental as well.  Improving the quantity of PE programs around the nation, and especially in areas and systems that don’t have adequate programs is important.  Improving the quantity of time within a day or week in programs universally would help promote such changes.

These steps would ensure the quality of PE programs.  By making them present within all areas and by ensuring adequate time for PE, the nature of obesity in young children is likely to improve.  These steps could be integral for the sensitive and significant issue in young children and in the health of many individuals.

Counterargument

The largest counterargument likely involves the mass changes that would need to take place.  For instance, if schools are to become more dedicated to students’ health, altering school lunch menus, and losing out of revenue from vending machines may cause trepidation. Specifically to PE, there may be arguments against this due to costs in a dwindling economy, to which Congress has set $69 million for in 2004 (“Obesity in Young Children”).

In regards to the literature on the subject, there is not enough reasoning to jeopardize the health of young children and those throughout years of childhood.  There is simply not enough to object to the minor changes and justified economic costs of such programs and changes.  The research and studies that have found such relationships between exercise and obesity, as well as other changes that need to occur, such as healthier food choices, is staggering.  The United States as a country, down to the particular school districts, cannot ignore the profound relationships that are allowing the obesity epidemic in young children to continue.

Conclusion

Obesity in young children can be seen in respect to the lack of impact being allowed by the current state of PE programs.  Research has demonstrated how such changes can alter the landscape of exercise habits and the projected results of the prevalence among overweight children in the United States.  While these changes may have costs involved in the changes that would alter the PE programs, lunch menus, and other aspects of schools, they are more than justified in regards to literature on the epidemic.

Simple changes in PE programs are perhaps the simplest and the most effective ways to alter the landscape of obesity in young children.  These changes can impact the exercise habits and future of young children in kindergarten as they enter grade school.  The changes would impact the direct prevalence of obesity in young children, as well as result in projected effects that could alter obesity in childhood altogether.

Works Cited

Miller, Jennifer, Rosenbloom, Arlan & Silverstein, Janet. “Childhood Obesity.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 89.9 (2004): 4211-4218.

“Obesity in Young Children: Impact and Intervention.” National Institute for Health Care Management. August 2004 Research Brief.

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