Child obesity has been on the rise in many countries around the world over the last thirty years. The reasons for this increase in childhood obesity have not been entirely determined, but a number of factors have been attributed as the root cause. Obesity can have detrimental health consequences when a child reaches adulthood, with increased health risks relating to childhood obesity increases with age. Although there isn’t a single cause for the increasing prevalence of childhood overweight, it has been discovered that families low in socioeconomic standing are typically not educated and lack access to nutrition and health programs. All these factors combine to create a very unhealthy environment in which to grow up.
There is a strong correlation between childhood obesity rates and urbanization. The poor health and nutrition and the lack of educational opportunities make people in sub-Saharan Africa more susceptible to diseases that afflict their bodies in greater numbers than their wealthier counterparts. In urban environments, people are less likely to go to the doctor when they suffer from illness because they do not feel that they have the money to pay for treatment or think it will be too much trouble to go to the doctor if they are sick anyway. This attitude of mind about health and illness is transferred into the home. Family members also become less willing to take action when they contract common illnesses such as diarrhoea, dysentery or cholera.
Childhood obesity is now an issue for the world health organization, and the rate of obesity in children increased by a factor of 10 within one decade. The increasing rate of childhood obesity in sub-Saharan Africa raises worrying questions as to why this epidemic is occurring in such a predominantly health-conscious society that has successfully taken measures to reduce its rates of cigarette smoking and increased the uptake of salt in the diet. Many factors have been linked to the rise in childhood obesity, and research is ongoing into why this has happened. One of the key factors driving obesity rates is changes in the world economy over the last quarter-century.
Changes in income levels and the availability of affordable foods have led to higher rates of overweight among people of non-Hispanic backgrounds. Non-Hispanic children are statistically more likely to have higher body mass index rates than Hispanic children and to have higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. As well, rates of teenage pregnancies have also increased, and this trend has been linked to higher rates of obesity. Obesity in adults has been linked to the same changes seen in children, and it has been noted that over the last fifteen years, the number of adults who are obese has doubled, and this trend is set to continue.
A major factor contributing to the increase in childhood obesity is the lack of physical activity. The physical education curriculum in schools is an important factor in the decrease in overweight children. However, the lack of physical activity prevents kids from getting the exercise that they need. In some cases, the lack of exercise may result in them becoming overweight later in life. All parents must consider the physical education aspect of their child and ensure that they are taking part in sports as a child.
Among African Americans, the most at-risk age group for obesity is adolescents. Rates of overweight and obesity in African Americans are double that of whites, and they are four times more likely to develop chronic diseases related to obesity. Rates of childhood obesity have increased dramatically in areas with higher poverty rates as well. Nationwide representative surveys have also shown an increase in the number of adolescents who are considered obese. Among African American adolescents, nearly one in five adolescents will be obese in 2021. Among males, one in five adolescents were obese, and among females, one in six adolescents were obese.
Rates of childhood obesity have also increased in school-age children. Among school-age children, one in five school-age children were obese in 2021. Among male school-age children, one in five were obese, and one in five were obese among female school-age children. Among all three age groups, African American children had the highest rate of obesity.