Childhood Obesity in the UK

The Prevalence and The Consequences of Childhood Obesity in the UK
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Obesity and overweight are two terms that have consistently been used to describe people
with abnormal body weight. As defined by WHO, they allude to the excessive or abnormal
accumulation of facts on the human body presenting healthy risks such as reduced quality of life
and poor mental health outcomes (Chooi, Ding, and Magkos, 2019). Globally, childhood obesity
has been considered a severe health condition. The excessive consumption of sugary staff and
overweight among children have been considered vital aspects of type 2 diabetes. Type 2
diabetes is a chronic condition that results in a high level of blood sugar (glucose). With the body
unable to either resist insulin or produce enough insulin, it affects how the body processes blood
sugar. Obesity has been observed to start from a young age, and might experience emotional and
psychological issues as they grow up (Vas et al., 2020). In some situations, they also end up
experiencing bullying from their colleagues. Their adulthood may experience higher rates of
social prohibition and comorbid factors. United Kingdom (UK) is one of the nations that the
problem has hardly hit. According to the Health Survey of England 2019, childhood obesity was
recorded at 14.4% (Lavie et al., 2018). The cultural environment, sedentary lifestyle, and
environmental aspects have been stipulated to play a vital role in the prevalence of the problem.
At this juncture, the paper attempts to explore into deeper, the consequences and prevalence of
childhood obesity in the UK. It will discuss the risk factors, assessment of the health condition,
health promotion model, goals, interventions, and the evaluation of the health promotion plan.
Background of Childhood Obesity
As one of the European countries, the UK has recently exhibited a high record of
childhood obesity. According to the National Child Measurement Program 2021, 14.4% of 4 to 5
years aged children had obesity, with a further 13.3% being considered non-obese but
overweight (Lidgate, Li, and Lindenmeyer, 2018). Similar, research results by Reilly (2022)
showed an increase from the previous year, 2020, where 21% of the children with obesity were
aged between 10 to 11 years and 9.9% aged 4to 5 years. The cases in the UK are also considered
to vary depending on the economic stability. Those living in disadvantaged areas were more
likely to record a higher number of obesity cases than those living in less underprivileged
regions. Those affected by obesity may end up expiring severe health issues such as cancer, heart
problems, diabetes, with all these issues risking the victim's life. Despite some foods like those
with high sugar content and calorie content foods being associated with obesity, they, however,
have excessive market demand in the UK.
Rationale For Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has become one of the most pressing health issues facing the UK.
Many adolescents and children are overweight or obese, and this requires intervention for it not
to escalate with time. The obesity prevalence among children aged 2 to 5 has nearly tripled over
the past 30 years (Xin et al., 2021). Obese and overweight children are at risk of significant
health issues in their youth and adult ages. Comprehension of the threatening obesity among
children would provide a strategic intervention focused on eliminating the problem. It has been a
government-wide priority in the UK towards tackling obesity as the problem places a significant
burden on the country's healthcare system.
Epidemiology of Childhood Obesity
In 2016, the UK saw a greater prevalence of childhood obesity, with overweight at
approximately 30% and obesity at 10% in young adults and children (Robinson et al., 2022). The
childhood obesity uprise was also noted to increase abruptly between 2011 and 2012 and
between 2015 and 2018 (Blüher, 2019). Some of the obesogenic factors associated with obesity
include sedentary behaviors, low nutrients, lesser physical activities, shorter sleep time, high
sugar-sweetened beverages, and consumption of foods saturated with fats. Increased use of social
media is also associated with higher body mass index (BMI) since it reduces physical activity
time. Individuals are considered obese when their BMI is above or equal to 30kg/m2. Sources
have shown varying statistics on the epidemiology of obesity since there are several ways body
fat can be measured. Even though BMI is the commonly used primary indicator of obesity, other
measures include bioelectrical impedance, skinfold thickness, waist to hip ratio, and waist
circumference (Lavie et al., 2018). From the 1980s to 2016, most countries in the Europe region
have had increased obesity rates among children aged 5 to 19 years (Vieira et al., 2019). During
the past years, the EU members have shown the prevalence of obesity in adolescents and
children to have an increasing trend. In research by Robinson et al. (2022) in 2018, London was
noted to have higher obese (23%) among children aged between 5 to 8 years compared to
England (18%).
Assessment of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has been for years determined by the BMI with its calculations done
on the BMI chart. The BMI was first introduced by Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet in the
early 19th century as the quickest and easiest way to measure the degree of obesity (Candler et
al., 2018). Persons considered overweight to have a BMI between 85 to 95 percentiles, while a
BMI higher than 96 percentiles denotes obesity. In other words, a normal healthy person has a
BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9. However, if it rises higher than 25.9, the children are said to have
overweight hence obesity (Voerman et al., 2019). A BMI lower than 18.5 is considered below
weight. The American Diabetes Association recommends obese diagnosis among children aged
18 years and below. Those weighing above 120% are considered at risk of hyperlipidemia,
PCOD, hypertension, and ancestral history genesis of diabetes 2. According to Gehanno et al.
(2019), between 2 years to 10 years is the most appropriate age bracket in which obese
assessment should start. WHO growth charts, Child Health UK, Royal College of Pediatrics, or
BMI z-score can be used to calculate BMI in young people or children. A longitudinal BMI
monitoring tool, childhood and puberty close monitoring (CPCM), can be used for children over
four years. Further, screening is recommended among children at risk of type 2 diabetes to
identify the disorder at early stages for vigorous management.
Health Promotion Model
According to Adolph et al. (2019), the behavioral change model is the most appropriate
and applicable health promotional model for childhood obesity. The model seeks to develop
positive behavioral change by focusing on lifestyle behaviors that have no impact on people's
lives. According to Kral et al. (2018), the model mostly emphasizes persuading people to take
their own health responsibilities, use preventive health services and adopt healthy lifestyle
behaviors. Applying the model to obesity and overweight disorders implies that the children
would be prompted to change their risk behaviors associated with obesity to less risky behaviors.
For an instant, the model encourages children to change from consuming fat and sugary
sweetened foods to less sugary foods. Changing their lifestyles to consume less sugary foods and
beverages helps reduce their vulnerability to obesity and overweight.
The model is further based on the perception that providing persons with knowledge and
information on obesity will change their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs (Adolph et al., 2019).
As a result, the belief applied to the suggestion that people should always remain physically fit
by embracing proper scheduling for their exercises. Merging physical activities with the
appropriate kind of food results from the model. The model has thus been shown to be effective
in childhood obesity interventions as it considers the future positive behaviors that the person
needs to embrace in preventing obesity or losing weight.
Health Promotion Goals
Health promotion goals play a crucial role in ensuring that children are prevented from
the risk associated with obesity at young ages. The three main promotion goals for childhood
obesity include physical activity centers, education, and support. The education goal involves
providing quality and the best education to the children and their parents on lifestyle
improvements (Rauber et al., 2020). Limiting immobile lifestyles with more physical activities
can help teenagers adopt a healthy lifestyle. Most children crave for sugary beverages, which is
not healthy. Educating the parents and the family can thus provide knowledge on why the parents
should limit their children from consuming healthy risky beverages and drinks. Furthermore,
establishing physical activity centers like sports fields and gyms and fitness where children do
physical activities can significantly better the children's health (Lavie et al., 2018). Getting
involved in physical activities helps reduce weight and ensure people stay in energy balance.
Lastly, children affected by obesity need support. The support may include providing them with
voucher schemes and especially for those from vulnerable backgrounds to afford to buy
vegetables and fruits. For the children to gain enough energy, they need a well-balanced and
healthy diet. It helps them to grow healthy. Parents can also support their children by working
with them closely in cooking. It helps them make long-lasting choices of the most appropriate
kind of food for their health.
Interventions For Health Promotion Goals
The health promotion goals require a well-established plan to ensure they effectively
combat or minimize the risks associated with obesity among children. The Department of Health
and Social Care has outlined several healthcare measures that ought to be considered to ensure
children are free from obesity risks. Some organizations have gone the extra mile to engage
children in various physical activities like cultural programs and sports. According to Wilson,
and Khansa (2018), physical activities combined with healthy eating are the first step to
preventing children from obesity. Sports have been a key part of the children in their educational
settings where the government supports sports competition through the ministry of education,
keeping the children healthy and boosting social ties. Children are encouraged to get involved in
various sports activities and athletics to help them remain healthy. As noted by Rowley et al.
(2018), some communities have also shown their support for sports by providing sports
amenities like playgrounds, fully equipping the participating children with playing uniforms, and
awarding them for their performances.
The government, non-governmental organizations, and other groups have shown their
support for fighting obesity and overweight among children and adults. Pearson, Sherar, and
Hamer (2019) advocated for physical activity to go hand in hand with eating vegetables and
fruits as they significantly lower the risks of obesity and overweight. The UK government has
been at the forefront of advocating for healthy foods by establishing policies to change the food
environment in the region. As sugar-sweetened beverages and foods become marketable in the
UK, the government has introduced policies to end the promotion of sugar and high-fat products
in online stores. "Buy one get one free" (BOGOF) promotions have been restricted by the new
legislation as it encourages people to buy more than they need hence consuming more unhealthy
products, which have effects on their health (Poti, Braga, and Qin, 2017The legislation, however,
encourages more discounts to be offered on foods like vegetables and fruits hence promoting
healthier choices. The Cancer Research Department also called for banning sugar and high fats
products online and on TV before 9 pm. Besides, Helping Overcome Obesity Problems (HOOP)
plays an essential role in fighting against obesity in the UK. The organization was established to
be the voice of persons with obesity, work with partners, break down the stigma attached to
obesity, and affect change strategically. It includes groups of people with common agenda of
making effective changes needed for the children struggling with obesity for timely services
The educational goal of health promotion aims toward ensuring both the children and
their families gain knowledge on the most appropriate and healthy food should be taken.
Empowering children and adults to live healthier lives should be a priority toward eliminating
obesity in society. A few months after the outbreak of the covid-19, it has found that obesity puts
people at a high risk of death due to Covid-19, with many people experiencing prolonged
hospitalization and admission to Intensive Care Units (Apperley et al., 2022). The UK National
Health Service, for example, has introduced a new campaign calling for obese and overweight
people to take action towards a healthier weight. It has also provided apps and evidence-based
tools with information on how people can keep off from obesity and lose weight. Through its
NHS BMI tool, people can measure their weights and check their body max index. The tool also
offers a 12-week weight loss plan in which persons who find themselves overweight or obese
can start the journey.
Regional Obesity Prevention Implementation Group (ROPIG) and the Obesity Prevention
Steering Group (OPSG) have been key to the UK in providing understating of the amount of
daily physical activity that people should participate in to help maintain their health. 'A Fitter
Future for All' was also developed in March 2012 and has been significant in empowering
Northern Ireland's people to improve health and well-being, reduce the risk of obesity and
overweight, and make healthy choices (Hamer et al., 2020). The framework creates an
environment that promotes and supports a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle. Other
partners in the UK fighting against childhood obesity include Public Health Agency and Health
Service Executive, and Healthy Ireland. Educating parents and family members on food choices
can help create awareness in the family on the best food to avoid obesity and overweight. The
children and the other family members learn how to make long-lasting food choices that have no
impact on their health. Knowledge is power, and providing families and children with
knowledge, helps minimize the risks associated with obesity and overweight.
As outlined by the Department of Health and Social Care, the health promotion goal of
encouraging physical exercise among children has been deemed effective in preventing obesity
and loss of weight among obese or overweight persons. Its effectiveness is evidenced in learning
institutions offering physical education (PE), where students participate in a range of school
activities to remain physically active. In determining the impact of physical activities among
children, Mastrocola et al. (2020) conducted a study in educational settings. The authors found
that the children involved in more than two sports teams have 39% fewer chances of being obese
and 27% fewer chances of being overweight than those not involved in any sports team
(Mastrocola et al., 2020). Besides reducing obesity by reducing fat mass, physical fitness also
has positive health outcomes, including decreasing the risks of Alzheimer's disease,
cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic disease (Corica et al., 2018). Physical activity has thus
been recommended as the modality for treating obesity and overweight disorder. Other measures
like surgery are only recommended once the physical exercise has completely failed to reduce
the weight. For physical exercise to be more effective, it prompts people to eat healthy foods.
Consuming sugary sweetened beverages and food products may, however, negatively alter the
efficacy of physical fitness.
A healthy environment and healthy children imply a healthy future. It is recommended
that the relevant stakeholders like the healthcare team enlist strategic approaches towards
increasing physical fitness and activity for children living or vulnerable to obesity. With
technological advancement, it is encouraged to use electronic medical records (EMRs) to make
appointments like assessing the health condition by taking pulse and blood pressure (Forrest et
al., 2018). Exercise trackers can be used to ensure the patient is exercising.
Individuals and families vulnerable to obesity have received enduring support from the
government, non-government organizations, and other entities, ensuring they live healthy lives.
Charitable organizations have helped provide food and shelter to unprivileged families to help
avoid weak foods that could entice them to obesity. The Power of Produce (POP) Club, for
example, supports the children by giving them $2 once they visit the club to help them purchase
their own vegetables and fruits (Caballero et al., 2018). The upscale of funds and support to the
vulnerable families have significantly reduced their vulnerabilities to obesity as they can afford
healthy foods. Introducing regulations on the sale and advertisement of sugary and fast-food
products can help reduce the risks of obesity since the foods associated with obesity and
overweight become scarce. It will promote healthy meals. It is recommended that the
government follow up to ensure the laws have been complied with, and those breaking the law
should face the consequences.
Educating the children and the community on a healthy diet and how to prevent
themselves from becoming obese should be a concern. By providing children with education,
they learn the role of different foods in their bodies and their impact on their future health. Many
people make wrong food choices because they lack that knowledge. Education and obesity have
a significant correlation; the higher the rate of education, the lower the rate of obesity. Many
children and adults who get an education tend to make the right choice. In research conducted by
Kahan and Manson (2019), among adults, it was found that adults who did not attend high school
had a 35.5% chance of getting obesity while college graduates had a 22.2% chance of getting
obesity. Therefore, education plays a significant part in preventing obesity among children by
providing nutrition education for healthy food choices, serving healthy foods with adequate
nutrients and calories, and offering opportunities for physical activity. It is recommended that the
parents be role models to their children by not encouraging them to consume sugary sweetened
and fat foods. They should actively involve the children in food choices.
Childhood obesity has been noted as a serious condition affecting young children
worldwide. As a chronic disease, the condition is becoming a threat not only to children but also
to adults. Many children exposed to the obese and overweight also find their health exposed to
other severe risks like hypertension, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, among other
consequences. Since the outbreak of covid-19, the UK Ministry of Health has identified
overweight or obese people at high risk. Hamer et al. (2020) reported that in 2021, out of the
10465 patients admitted with covid-19, 73.7% had obesity or overweight issues. Young
populations with BMI above 30 were also at the risk of worse outcomes as they were twice likely
to be admitted to the ICU compared to those with BMI under 30 (Astbury et al., 2021).
Even though childhood obesity has been a major challenge, various interventions have
been established to help deal with childhood obesity. Education has been introduced to provide
families and children with the knowledge on the best food choices to avoid obesity and
overweight. Additionally, physical activities among children have been noted to play an essential
role in losing weight. Communities and government have also pooled their efforts towards
supporting sports and athletic events at the local levels. The application of the behavioral change
model has been phenomenal in minimizing the risks of obesity and overweight.
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