The influence of income for families is a predominant determinant of child obesity and the effects of obesity in their lives. Technological advancement, including video games and eating habits, displays a disparity in family income, which influences the nutritional needs of children. Kids from a single-parent home or those with a low income suffer most from nutritional needs and are likely to suffer from obesity. Having a first degree in Food and Nutrition, I believe that this study will be influential in addressing the nutritional needs of children with obesity and the link between low-income and obese conditions.
How do low-income families facilitate the expansive number of child obesity cases?
Various fast-food stores offer cheap food, which attracts many low-income families concerned with feeding their children. The nutritional value of fast foods is never a concern, provided that the children are full. The 2019 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System records that about 3.7 million low-income families with children between two to four years were overweight. The high number of overweight children results from the poor nutritional needs of their low-income guardians. Finkelstein states that most of the low-income families have one parent working more than one job and, as a result, have limited time to prepare decent healthy food. Homes with a woman as the breadwinner are more susceptible to food insecurity, amounting to obesity issues within the family.
Programs such as the Women, Infants and Children Program and Supplementary
Nutritional programs are structured to help low-income families cope with child obesity. The provision of food stamps and nutritional education to low-income families ensures a better future for the families. Goodman states that ‘the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’ used about $4.5 billion to ensure healthy food provision. Low-income families have enormous challenges, including obesity, to combat. Nutritional deficiency is the main cause of child obesity, and to control this, agencies have come together to provide financial and dietary aid. Ensuring that both parents and children have access to healthy food eliminates instances of child obesity in low-income families.
Childhood obesity is a serious predicament that affects children and young adolescents. It is a complex health issue that causes the young person to add excess weight. Body mass index (BMI) is the unit used to determine childhood overweight and obesity. An overweight child is considered to have a BMI above the 85th and below the 95th percentile of the recommended weight for their age and health. Notably, BMI does not directly measure body fat, with the latter only being measured using bioelectrical impedance, densitometry, and skinfold thickness. The condition can easily be diagnosed through a simple health assessment, resulting in the child’s health status and risks. Many factors, usually working in liaison, increase a child’s likelihood of being obese. These include diet, lack of exercise, psychological and socioeconomic factors, and certain medications (Appelhans et al. 2). Of concern is family factors and how the environment in which a child grows actively influences their weight.
It is challenging to make healthy choices and get enough physical exercise when surrounded by individuals doing the opposite. Low-income families, especially within the United States, are often made up of older individuals with lower education levels. These individuals will often have to deal with unemployment, poor working and living conditions, and lack of access to relevant information. Usually, the older relatives will partake in low-quality foods and lack the discipline to stick to portion control. Further, they are already obese, at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, or suffering from additional health challenges due to their lifestyle (Ludwig 2325). It has been proven that children emulate the behavior in their most immediate family. As such, children and adolescents will often pick said lifestyle choices, which will, in the long run, lead to obesity and weight problems. The older relatives will often ignore “a diet rich in fruits and vegetables which provide important bioactive compounds and nutrients” (Seguin et al. 2). The affordability of healthy food options has been attributed to the rise in childhood obesity among low-income households. Healthy foods tend to be less convenient, less accessible, and marketed disproportionally than unhealthy ones.
Often, the low-income households only have a single income that is inadequate to feed the family. As such, the parents will buy cheaper food alternatives with high levels of saturated fat and sugar (Appelhans et al. 2). Additionally, these will often be energy-dense with poor nutritional value, with the primary focus satisfying hunger rather than nutritional value. The consumption of said foods is in line with the sedimentary lifestyle adopted by low-income families. There is a need for the transformation of food systems to ensure equal distribution of nutritious foods. According to Seguin et al., there should be a change towards “community supported agriculture where families with at least one child will be recruited to join existing community-supported agricultural programs” (2). These types of community programs will mean that families get to substitute calorie-heavy meals with plant-based diets. Improving fruit and vegetable intake should significantly improve children’s overall health and present them with the chance to fight obesity and other weight-related health complications.
Food insufficiency among low-income households can lead to overweight children. While it can be argued that hunger and obesity are a paradoxical idea, the former is used to refer to the inadequacy of nutritionally adequate and safe food. Food insufficiency creates a situation where the children are forced to partake in excessive food and overeat when meals are made available. Notably, some studies show an inconsistent correlation between food security and obesity. These studies fail to consider that lack of proper and sufficient food leads to psychosocial stressors that contribute to overindulging and thus obesity. In extreme situations, the children from poor neighborhoods will show early signs of adiposity, which could lead to hyperinsulinemia, inflammation, and dyslipidemia. Late diagnosis means that on top of obesity, these children are at risk of further brain and cognitive damage. “Another factor contributing to pediatric obesity is the emergence of the direct marketing and sale of food to children inside schools” (Lieb et al. 349). The food companies have resulted to using this avenue to sell their food products. The decision to sell directly was informed by the idea that children buy passively and, as such, will most likely not check on the quality of the processed foods. This has created a nutritional discrepancy as children with higher lunch money buy the healthier options while those from the projects and low-income communities purchase unhealthy choices.
Low-income households will often have to tackle health inequities, which might contribute to childhood obesity amongst this populace. Notably, low-income families are the primary beneficiaries of the food stamp program. At its core, the program’s nutritional focus is increased calories in place of improved diet quality. The families are more prone to go for sufficient calories instead of focusing on enhanced dietary health and, as such, will go for low-nutrient food (Rogers 692). The pushing towards this low-quality merchandise and lack of proper guidelines for purchasing foods under the food stamp program mean that low-income communities will continue to suffer health inequities.
Besides, most of the poor households do not have suitable insurance covers. This means that children who show early signs of obesity or eating disorders will not receive the care they need. Even worse, their health conditions might go undetected for years, further deteriorating their health. Notably, poor households never get a good nutritional status report done on their children. This can be attributed to maternal illiteracy and lack of follow-up from the initial birth weight. Further, indigenous children will, for instance, show parasitic intestinal infections that will often go unmonitored, affecting their health and feeding habits.
Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern linked to chronic diseases and further deterioration in health. It is associated with subsequent obesity and high medical costs due to complications later in life. The prevalence of obesity is well-documented, except there is a gap in how there is a disparity in those children from low-income families are more likely to experience incidences of obesity. The steepness of the overweight and obesity inequity proves an increasing health gap between the rich and the poor. No longer can obesity be seen as being genetically driven. Lifestyle choices can no longer be solely blamed for the increasing body weight and fat among children. A review of the literature available proves that the social home environment, home activity, and media, and food all contribute to obesity in the households mentioned above. Specifically, household characteristics and socioeconomic status are core to deciphering the disparity in obesity among the different families. Concisely, due to the public health significance of childhood obesity prevalence, there is a need to monitor the situation closely.
Appelhans, Bradley M. et al. “The Home Environment And Childhood Obesity In Low-Income Households: Indirect Effects Via Sleep Duration And Screen Time.” BMC Public Health, vol. 14, no. 1, 2014. Springer Science and Business Media LLC, Web.
Lieb, David C. et al. “Socioeconomic Factors in The Development of Childhood Obesity and Diabetes.” Clinics In Sports Medicine, vol. 28, no. 3, 2017, pp. 349-378. Elsevier BV, Web.
Ludwig, David S. “Childhood Obesity — The Shape of Things to Come.” New England Journal Of Medicine, vol. 357, no. 23, 2007, pp. 2325-2327. Massachusetts Medical Society, Web.
Rogers, Robert et al. “The Relationship Between Childhood Obesity, Low Socioeconomic Status, And Race/Ethnicity: Lessons From Massachusetts.” Childhood Obesity, vol. 11, no. 6, 2015, pp. 691-695. Mary Ann Liebert Inc, Web.
Seguin, Rebecca A. et al. “Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK): An Innovative Community Supported Agriculture Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity in Low-Income Families and Strengthen Local Agricultural Economies”. BMC Public Health, vol. 17, no. 1, 2017. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, Web.