Childhood obesity has been on the increase in the United States with negative implications on the health of children. Toledo, Ohio has not been spared of this obesity crisis and rates of obesity continue to rise in the region. The high prevalence rate of obesity among children in Toledo is a cause for alarm and it requires direct action aimed at coming up with effective strategies and programs to prevent or alleviate the problem among the population.
Owing to the fact that obesity reduces the quality of life and shortens the lifespan of the person, it is of importance that solutions be developed to deal with this problem in children. In recognition of this fact, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell led a delegation of high-profile leaders, earlier on in the year, to a meeting in Washington where they sought solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic that the Toledo area faces (Boyd-Barrett 1).
This paper will propose feasible solutions for the obesity problem that Toledo faces. The paper shall begin by highlighting the major causes of childhood obesity in Toledo. Solutions which include: healthy eating, dietary education in schools and increase in physical exercise will be proposed as the best ways to counter childhood obesity. The paper will make use of authoritative sources on the subject to reinforce the proposals made.
While there are a number of causes of obesity, Jelalian and Steele declare that overindulgence in unhealthy foods and limited physical exercise are the major causes of the problem (23). This assertion is reinforced by the fact that obesity is mostly limited to people who eat unhealthily and exhibit limited physical exercise. Among the children in Toledo, unhealthy dietary habits are core to the increase in obesity.
The home and school environments are some of the major causes of these unhealthy eating habits. In the school environment, many elements such as vending machines and the fast foods offered at cafeterias encourage unhealthy eating habits. These fast foods contain trans fats which have been linked to increased risk of heart diseases and have also been grossly implicated other health conditions including obesity and diabetes (Frary 56).
There is also limited availability of healthy foods. Boyd-Barret notes that Toledo is aflicted by a scarcity of grocery stores. In the places there the stores are available, they seldom have any fresh fruits or vegetables to offer. This is in contrast to the high availability of fast food restaurants which are virtually around every corner.
Another reason for the prevalence of childhood obesity in the region is a lack of nutritional education by the children. Lucas County Commissioner, Pete Gerken, noted that children are “not as well-educated as they should be about exercise and diet” which is what has made childhood obesity the number 1 health issue in Toledo (Boyd-Barrett 1). Nutrition education is also fundamental to the success of any obesity alleviation efforts since it can lead to the adoption of healthy lifestyles.
Lack of proper exercising has also led to the increase of obesity in children. Elected officials report that the obesity problem that Toledo faces is “exacerbated by poor community planning and urban environments that fail to provide people with enough recreational opportunities where they live” (Boyd-Barrett 1). Without exercising facilities, children are bound to continue with their unhealthy sedentary lifestyle which comprises of playing video games and watching TV.
It has been elaborately shown that the quality of food served to children in the school setting is of low nutritional value and unhealthy. Economic considerations result in fast foods being preferred in school cafeterias over healthy foods. Unhealthy fast foods are lower priced compared healthier meals which not only cost significantly more but they also take longer to prepare.
The foods that are available to children in schools are mostly made up of snacks, fast foods and sodas; all of which are rich in unhealthy fats, sugars and salt. With this in mind, it is evident that the key to solving the problem of childhood obesity is an overhaul of the school nutrition program.
To begin with, schools should endeavor to get rid of fast foods in schools. The very presence of fast foods undermines the health foods since fast foods are not only cheaper but also sweater. Research by Frary et al indicated that the number of fruit and vegetable intakes by children decreased as intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages increased (61).
It can therefore be inferred that decrease in junk foods and sodas will result in an increase in healthier food intake. Without a doubt, the funding of healthy eating programs would be expensive to the parents and the schools. Money is a major consideration since poverty is a big challenge for Toledo where nearly 20% of residents receive food assistance (Boyd-Barrett 1).
As such, it will be necessary for schools to participate in the Federal Meal program. These programs adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) thus providing students with nutritious meals. These meals are reimbursable by the state thus greatly decreasing the price per meal making them much more affordable.
Proper education on nutrition and proper diet is one of the means through which obesity can be combated in Toledo. The CDC highlights the need for provision of nutritional education guidelines to school-age youths so as to ensure that health lifestyles are adopted early in life and perpetrated all through adulthood.
A solution that increases knowledge on proper diet and exercise is therefore appropriate. Schools are the venue through which this solution can be implemented Schools are a major influence for children and they are responsible for instilling principles in the child’s life. Schetzina et al declare that the most effective means through which a healthy eating culture can be ingrained in the minds of children is if they are taught this at the earliest stage possible (23).
Devoting some educational time to teaching children sound nutritional principles may result in the children adopting favorable lifestyles. The incorporation of nutrition education at the elementary school level would increase the likelihood of children adopting healthy eating habits which would continue through their lives. This would reduce the risk of the children developing obesity even more.
Proper exercising is another means through which childhood obesity can be curbed in the region. Physical activity in children can be encouraged through physical education. As it currently stands, physical education has taken a back seat as schools lay more emphasis on studies and other academically oriented activities.
This clearly indicates the low priority that Physical education is given in schools. As a result of this, there are minimal opportunities for children to be physically active during school time and the physical education classes are one of the first to suffer when budgetary cuts are necessitated in schools (Jelalian and Steele 34).
The reality is that in most schools in Toledo, physical education classes are been squeezed out as pressure increases for students to raise their performance in the subjects which are examinable. Considering the importance of physical education, parents and teachers should continue to advocate for improved physical activity opportunities for children in schools.
Physical education classes should be consistent and regular and inclusive of all the students to make sure that every student benefits from proper exercising. At the community level, there is lack of proper facilities where people can exercise. The community should therefore continue to pressure the local authorities to improve the social amenities available. In particular, calls for creation of parks and other recreational spaces should be made so as to encourage healthy living.
This paper set out to highlight a problem that affects the Toledo community and propose feasible solutions to the same. The paper has addressed the issue of childhood obesity, which is a major problem since it affects children who are the future of the community.
This paper has proposed feasible solutions which are not only desirable but are the means through which we can restore the health of the children. It has been demonstrated that the biggest cause of obesity is poor eating habits exhibited by the school children and the lack of physical education programs in the schools.
As such, for any solution to yield favorable results, it must set out to tackle these core issues of nutrition and physical education. While the solutions proposed in this paper will come at a cost, the solutions will result in improved health of the children. This will be beneficial to all since the children are the future of the community.
Boyd-Barrett, Claudia. Childhood obesity targeted by Lucas County leaders. 23 February 2011. Web. 18 July 2011. http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2011/02/23/Childhood-obesity-targeted-by-Lucas-County-leaders.html 2010. Web. 04 July 2011.
CDC. Guidelines for School health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating. March 2009. Web. July 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042446.htm
Frary, Carol et al. “Children and Adolescents’ Choices of Foods and Beverages High in Added Sugars Are Associated With Intakes of Key Nutrients and Food Groups”. Journal of Adolescent Health 2004; 34:56-63
Jelalian, Elissa, and Steele, Ric. Handbook of Childhood and Adolescent Obesity. Springer, 2008. Print.
Schetzina, K. E. et al “Developing a Coordinated School Health Approach to Child Obesity Prevention in Rural Appalachia”. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1157. 2009.