Solving Childhood Obesity One Connection at a Time
Over the past 30 years the United States has risen to become number one. However, this is a first place position to be ashamed of. America has the highest rate of diabetes in a population per capita. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of America “Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. While obesity is defined as having excess body fat” (CDC). In Malcolm Gladwell’s essay, “Small Change,” he analyzes the factors it takes to create social change. Rebekah Nathan’s essay, “Community and Diversity,” she goes undercover to interpret the lives of college freshman at AnyU. And finally, in “AIDS, Inc.,” by Helen Epstein, she travels to Africa to investigate the spread of HIV/Aids. The epidemic of childhood obesity can be solved by having a strong leader who is committed and driven towards solving the issue, coordinating charities with hierarchical structures that can help fund availability of healthier foods in communities and schools, and educating across all demographics.
Childhood obesity is an increasing issue. “In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese” (CDC). If this problem is not resolved imagine how the descendant will be affected in a matter of 10 or more years. Type II diabetes was once nicknamed adult onset diabetes; but is no longer called so because children are developing the disease. The consequences of childhood obesity are drastic. The long term effects these children are facing include many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and risks of stroke, heart attacks, and even shorter life spans surge when obesity is a complication. Epstein reconnoiters the true explanations behind the record setting AIDS epidemic in Africa. Her investigations lead to her suggestions to reduce infection rates. What was her main solution? Epstein proposes that programs should, “Focus on real circumstances in people’s lives that make it hard for them to avoid infection” (162). Keeping a smile on and pretending that just making up rhymes to use condoms will stop the spread of AIDS is not acceptable. There needs to be real answers for real people. A strong leader, who understands this, needs to take action and help save the youth of America.
Some of the most influential leaders such as our First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Martin Luther King Jr., possess the qualities commitment and ambition to coerce profound social change. On February 9, 2010, America’s First Lady announced the launch of the Lets Move! Campaign. Michelle explains, “In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” (letsmove). Gladwell describes that during the Civil Rights movement, “Martin Luther King Jr., was the unquestioned authority” (236). Without King many of the strategies put into place during the Birmingham boycotts would not have even existed. He was the strong and determined individual that created a movement that everyone came to follow. Gladwell explains, “The things that King needed in Birmingham- discipline and strategy” (237). Using his leadership skills King created a long-lasting impression on the racist whites of the Deep South. It took an army, but it was a well-organized classified army none the less.
Coordinating charities using a hierarchical structure can help resolve the childhood obesity problem. Once the news of a program targeted at changing the childhood obesity statistics hit it spread like wildfire. “The Administration announced the new Healthy Food Financing Initiative – a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture and Health and Human Services that will invest $400 million a year to help bring grocery stores to underserved areas and help places such as convenience stores and bodegas carry healthier food options. Achieving the goal will require engaging in partnerships with States, communities, and the non-profit and for-profit private sectors” (Whitehouse). The structures of these corporations are hierarchical. In his essay Malcolm asserts, “It was strategic activism a challenge to the establishment mounted with precision and discipline” (236). The effort has already been made by the strong leader fitting against the childhood obesity epidemic, Michelle Obama. These donations must coordinate together to produce positive results. Gladwell agrees that, “If you are going to take on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy” (237). The formats of hierarchical charities are a proven success in the history of social change.
These charities need to be in communities across America working in harmony with one another in order to substantially drop the number of children affected by obesity. The need for communities to come together is evident. Nathan confirms that most people “strongly believe in the importance of community” (316). The idea of togetherness helps entangle those who may be otherwise left out. There is something about the social cohesion that takes place when a member of a community is strongly affected by a sickness, whether it is obesity, diabetes, or AIDS. Epstein defines social cohesion as, “the tendency of people to talk openly with one another and form trusted relationships” (158). Sociologists find it easier for individuals to have intimate conversations with those in similar situations, such as those living with an obese family, friend, or neighbor.
Schooling is a huge influence on a child’s life choices, including diet and exercise. Students from ages 5-18 are in school on average 5 days a week for 7 of their waking lives. That is a huge chunk of time, 16380 hours, in just 13 years. If during that time students are eating junk and sitting on their bottoms it becomes a social issue. “Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors” (CDC). Offspring of families that earn less than $25,000 are eligible for free school lunch and breakfast. That is two meals a day at no cost to parents while attending school. Therefore, schools should be required to serve students nutritious lunches.
Lastly, obesity in America can be solved through educating both parents and children no matter the demographics. Sundry amounts of obese children stem from low income families. Epstein describes, “I wondered, where children have to contend with poverty, the risk of being robbed or raped, and a grim future of likely unemployment” (159). These children have little to no money to purchase food. Many will argue that health foods cost more than junk food. However, the medical costs of being overweight outnumber the total fee. “The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries” (CDC). If parents were educated just as students in school were they have a greater potential of serving healthier meals to their children. Rich Caucasian students are not the only ones that can reverse obesity. Just as Nathan expresses, “cultural coherence faded” (315). The program must target at educating everyone. “It is everyone’s problem”
To summate social change can be accomplished with strong leadership, coordinating charities, and educating the people. Every piece of the puzzle must fit together for success to be attained. To be continued…