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The high prevalence rates of child obesity in the United States are increasingly raising concerns for public health. This is because there is a casual relationship between childhood obesity and negative impacts on physical and emotional wellbeing of children (Adolescent Psychiatry, 2011). Therefore, there is the need for policy makers and public health officials to implement strategies with the primary goal of reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 42 million children below 10 years old who are suffering from obesity. An interesting observation is that the prevalent causation factors for child obesity are preventable using either policy or public education. As a result, there is the need to explore the core causation factors of childhood obesity in order to facilitate the establishment of the most effective course of action to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and its propagation into childhood (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002). This research does not take into account the biological causes of obesity, since they cannot be prevented using policy actions and public education.

Prior research has revealed that childhood obesity usually progresses to adulthood; implying obesity is best controlled in childhood in order to prevent the occurrence of potential complications, such as diabetes and heart failures. Some of the negative effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetic conditions, heart diseases, cancer, skin ailments and sleeping disorders. The worst psychological impact that obese children face is stigmatization and discrimination, which often lead to low self-esteem and affects childhood development and physical wellbeing (Koplan, Liverman, & Kraak, 2005). There are numerous factors contributing towards high prevalence rates of obesity, which present an opportunity for a vast area of research in order to facilitate the establishment of effective measures to control obesity. This study also aims at evaluating the claim that childhood obesity usually progressed to adulthood.

This research makes a specific claim that childhood obesity is primarily caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. Therefore, policy actions and preventive measures must advocate for practices deemed to lessen the prevalence of childhood obesity through promoting healthy lifestyles (Bagchi, 2010). This study makes use of the following research hypotheses.

H1: physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles increase the prevalence of childhood obesity.

H2: Food advertising and marketing increases the risk of attaining obesity among children.

H3: The presence of fast foods increases the prevalence of childhood obesity.

H4: Childhood obesity progresses to adulthood.

Theoretical Framework

Past studies have explored the core causation factors of obesity and established the relationship between childhood obesity and nutritional preferences. Cole (2007) reported that, there is a positive correlation between childhood obesity and the consumption of fast foods among children. The most common eating habits among children that lead to increased prevalence of obesity include sweetened drinks and snacks. The convenience and availability of fast foods have increased their dominance and preference over healthy nutritional preferences irrespective of their health risks. The nutritional content of fast foods usually comprises of high saturated fats and calories served in large volumes, which serve to advance the culture of overeating among children and increase the risk of suffering from obesity. According to Cole (2007), eating fast foods twice a week increases the risk of suffering from obesity by approximately 50 percent. In addition, fast foods are highly addictive, what is a cause of further reduces the intake of healthy foods by children and, therefore, further increasing the prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States.

Bagchi (2010) conducted a survey and reported that children who engage in regular physical activity have lower risks of suffering from obesity. The survey took three weeks and reported that 35 percent of the participants developed obesity because of lack of physical activity during school days and the 65 percent during weekends when compared to non-obese participants. The theoretical explanation for this observation was that lack of physical activity implies less energy consumption by the body irrespective high-energy intake. Physical inactivity during childhood has been observed to be inherent in adulthood. Bagchi (2007) reported that 25 percent of active teenagers in the age of 14-19 years old were active adults, with only 2 percent of inactive teenagers transformed into active adulthood. The lack of physical activity leads to high levels of unused energy in the body, in the form of fats and carbohydrates. High intake of carbohydrates is likely to generate approximately 75-80 percent of unused energy, which is then converted to fats. Similarly, excessive intake of fats leads to approximately 90-95 percent of unused energy, which increases the risk of suffering from obesity. Reported cases of physical inactivity among children are closely associated with stationary activities among children, such as television watching and playing computer games. Bagchi (2007) asserts that the reduction of physical activity durations in school also serve to increase the level of inactivity among children, which in turn increases the prevalence of obesity among children.

The physical environment, urban and suburban, also has a significant effect on the prevalence of childhood obesity. Urban areas are not spacious enough, which in turn inhibits outdoor and physical activities (Bascetta, 2005). Other variables associated with the urban set up that serve to hinder physical and outdoor activities include high levels of neighborhood crimes, unattended dogs and busy traffic. Similarly, suburban sprawls inhibit children from engaging in physical activities such as walking because of increased reliance on vehicular transport. In addition, such areas have less recreational facilities and sidewalks to facilitate physical activities. Residents of suburban sprawls have high risk of suffering from obesity, because less walking and physical activities increase the prevalence of hypertension, a condition usually associated with obesity (Cole, 2007).

Food advertising and marketing campaigns also have a considerable impact on the high prevalence of obesity. Food advertisements primarily target children, who are easily moved with sweetened beverages and snacks having high calories and sugar quantities. In addition, food advertising also imposes a significant influence on the dietary habits and nutritional preferences of children, which in turn increases the risk of suffering from obesity (Bagchi, 2010). Genetics and biological factors can also be used in explaining the high prevalence of childhood obesity. Eating habits such as increased desire for food are inheritable, and increases the risk of children suffering from obesity, especially when the nutritional preferences are not healthy.

It is apparent that childhood obesity is a looming crisis that poses the need to deploy appropriate preventive measures based on the central causation factors for increased prevalence of childhood obesity. Basing on the literature review and theoretical frameworks, it is evident that preventive actions should focus on increasing the level of physical activities among children through adjusting educational curriculum. Such an approach should aim at increasing the duration of physical activities and reduce the time spent participating in sedentary activities, such as playing computer games and watching television. Due to this prevention strategy schools need to adopt policies that conform to the reduction of obesity. An instance is to advocate for the use of walking or biking instead of relying on inactive modes of transport.

Other policy measures include various strategies for fast food regulation, such as increasing the costs of foods that have unhealthy nutritional content. Imposing heavy taxes on such foods can help in discouraging the public preference of fast foods over healthy foods. Some states have already adopted this policy to help in reducing the prevalence of obesity. Another policy regulation includes controlling the promotion of high-energy fast foods.

This research evaluates whether policy actions can be implemented to curtail inactivity and sedentary lifestyles. In addition, the paper also evaluates whether regulation of fast food marketing and advertising and the presence of fast food can be an effective strategy for preventing the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity. The findings from the study will affirm the effectiveness of the suggested strategies in reducing childhood obesity.

Research Methodology

Research Design and Sample

The nature of research questions determines the research methodology used in the study. This study required the analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data obtained from obese participants in order affirm or refute the formulated research hypotheses. As a result, the methodological approach used entailed a quasi-experimental approach based on the study of various differences from mutually formulated groups (Ruane, 2005). The data acquisition method used in the study included both primary and secondary data sources. Primary data was gathered in the form of questionnaires and interviews regarding the appropriate topic. The secondary sources were used in documenting the theoretical framework and preliminary findings. The study commenced with a research problem and ended with empirical measurement and data analysis and evaluation implying that the deductive approach was the most preferable in this case (Ruane, 2005). Fundamentally, the research structure entailed an analysis of the available theory, followed by formulation of hypothesis. After that, an observation was made in order to confirm the already formulated hypothesis. Therefore, the research structure used a top down approach. The deductive approach was more preferable, because it narrows down to a specific objective that is primarily concerned with the confirmation of the hypothesis (Ruane, 2005).

The sample for the research was derived from a local community with a focus on different schools in the community. Different schools were used to enhance research diversity and accuracy of the findings. The sampling approach that was employed was quota sampling and convenience sampling. Quota sampling refers to a situation whereby the researcher chooses a proportion of the elements that was investigated during the study. The partition can be based on different categories, such as gender, age, lifestyle and ethnicity. The researcher can then decide which categories to use in the proportion of the study elements depending on the ease of access.

Data Collection

Data collection methods used in this study entailed both primary and secondary data collection methods. Primary data collected entailed the acquisition of first hand data by the researcher using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with the participants. Primary data was used to supplement the secondary data used in preliminary findings. The questionnaires were used for collecting data concerning the influence of food advertising campaigns on the food preferences among children (Ruane, 2005). The use of questionnaires was preferable, because they facilitated the collection of enormous amounts of qualitative data within a limited timeframe. In addition, the participants were asked to document how specific food advertisements shaped their food preferences and eating habits, especially those that play an integral role in causing obesity. In addition, the questionnaires used open-ended questions to document the opinions of the respondents regarding policy actions, such as regulation of fast foods and food advertisements that tend to influence children’s eating habits. Semi-structured interviews were conducted on a random basis. This entailed spotting obese children and asking questions related to their eating habits and food preferences in order to establish the relationship between their physical environment and prevalence of obesity. Questionnaires were also administered to obese adults in order to determine whether they had grown with obesity since childhood. Semi-structured interviews provide a large number of qualitative data. However, the limiting factor towards this approach is that interviews require researchers consuming a lot of time.

Limitations of the Research

The significant constraint that the research faced was time constraints, which lead to inadequate collection of questionnaires and the carrying out of semi-structured interviews. This may lead to a higher marginal error. Another problem was that some target respondents were not interested in answering the questions during the research and interview. Some respondents may have provided inaccurate information.

Data analysis

Data analysis is an essential phase in social research, because they are used to infer conclusions. The research findings provided a framework for agreement or refute of the already formulated hypothesis. The data collected during the research entailed both qualitative and quantitative data. This implies that both inferential and descriptive statistics were used to arrive at the conclusion. Descriptive statistics in research usually serve to summarize and describe data using quantities, such as percentage, proportion, mean, , mode and other descriptive statistical quantities. The approach for data analysis will consist of mainly univariate data analysis, which examines the distribution of one statistical variable at a time.

Results of the Study

This research made a specific claim that childhood obesity is primarily caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. The following were the research hypothesis used in supporting the specific claim.

H1: physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles increase the prevalence of childhood obesity.

H2: Food advertising and marketing increase the risk of attaining obesity among children.

H3: The presence of fast foods increases the prevalence of childhood obesity.

H4: Childhood obesity progresses to adulthood.

H1: Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Lifestyles Increase the Prevalence of Childhood Obesity

There were 150 questionnaires collected from the schools in the local communities with regard to this study. With regard to this hypothesis, the study reported that 80 percent of obese participants engaged in limited physical activity, 10 percent of obese participants engaged in regular physical activity, implying that there is the likelihood that their obesity was mainly because of biological factors. The study also reported that children who stayed indoors and participated in minimal outdoor and physical activities had high risks of suffering from obesity. These findings are shown in the following table.

Level of physical activity

Percentage of participants

Risk of obesity

High

10 percent

Low

Medium

10

Medium

Low

80 percent

High

 H2: Food Advertising and Marketing Increase the Risk of Attaining Obesity among Children

With regard to this hypothesis, all participants reported that fast food marketing campaigns significantly influenced their nutritional preferences and eating habits. All the participants who agreed that fast food marketing influenced their nutritional preferences turned out to be obese.

H3: The Presence of Fast Foods Increases the Prevalence of Childhood Obesity

Concerning this hypothesis, 80 percent of the respondents reported that they preferred fast foods because of convenience and prices; it turned out that they were obese. The remaining twenty percent preferred foods made at home basing on their nutritional content. This supports the hypothesis that the presence of fast foods increases the prevalence of obesity.

H4: Childhood Obesity Progresses to Adulthood

In relation to this hypothesis, 90 percent of the respondents reported that their obesity progressed from childhood while the remaining 10 percent reported that they became obese in the course of their adulthood. This finding supports the hypothesis that child obesity progresses to adulthood.

Conclusion

It is evident from the findings of the study and preliminary findings support that the specific claim adopted by the study. In addition, the findings are consistent with the preliminary findings highlighted in the theoretical framework. All the formulated hypotheses have been confirmed, implying that sedentary lifestyles and physical inactivity are the core causation factors of childhood obesity. This provides an opportunity through which policy actions and public education can be used to prevent the prevalence of childhood obesity.

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