This paper is a study of health consequences in children who over-consumes McDonald’s and other products of fast-food restaurants. The study evaluates how fast-food advertisement, supply, and sale in areas with proximity to children, such as schools and play fields, increase the rates of childhood obesity. For example, it has been established that whenever a fast-food restaurant is about 100 meters from a school compound, rate of increase in childhood obesity is about 5.2 percent (Philipson & Richard, 2008). However, if the fast-food restaurant is beyond 500 meters from the school compound or children playing fields, its effects on the rate of obesity in children are insignificant. Moreover, the future site of a fast-food restaurant does not in any way affect the current rate of obesity in children. The effect is noticed whenever the restaurant is operational, and there is unregulated sale of its products to children who are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. These findings lead to the implication that if legislations restricting the establishment of fast-food restaurants near schools and play grounds are enacted, they could aid in reducing the rate of childhood obesity (Philipson & Richard, 2008). The reduction would be higher if parents and guardians are keen to monitor the eating habits of their children while at home to ensure they reduce consumption of snacks rich in calories.
I have carefully examined materials on the subject to enable to enable me build an argument that is easily understood. This paper uses basic and clear statements in discussing causes, effects, remedies, and future works in this area of research.
Cases of childhood obesity have been widespread in North America since 1970s. During this time, fast-food industries have increased to more than double while other traditional restaurants experience a much slower growth rate. Several contributors in conferences and seminars appreciate that the unrestrained availability of Macdonald and other fast food products has largely increased rates of obesity. Policy makers in various jurisdictions have in turn restricted the availability of these high-calorie foods or required companies to post the caloric capacity that they have (Rosenheck, 2008). However, much of the evidence that link obesity and fast food is based on correlation studies, which have been conducted using limited data sets. This paper attempts to establish the causal effect that increase in fast-food supply has on childhood obesity rates. It bases the argument on the data analyzed over several years regarding the obesity rate for children and adolescent in California. The method used in this paper allows for an accurate recognition of the effects of McDonald’s on obesity.
Several statistics in America shows that childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels. The number of overweight children has tripled to about 15 percent over a period of 30 years. There are various reasons that are thought to have caused this rise. Among these causes, two are prominent: bad eating habits and inadequate exercising. Overconsumption of fast foods like McDonald’s, coupled with insufficient physical exercise has been singled out as the major contributor to childhood obesity. Latest statistics on childhood obesity have attracted a lot of attention. Researchers have indicated that between 15 and 35 percent of people below the age of 15 has obesity (Rosenheck, 2008). Childhood obesity in California has been recognized a significant health risk. This is after the rate of its prevalent among the young has doubled since 1980. During the same period, triple the numbers of obesity cases are being reported as compared to 1980. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) survey that was conducted in California from 1999 to 2002, 16 percent of those below the age 19 years were found to be overweight (Schlosser & Eric, 2002).
The 3 in 4 respondents during the study indicated that they considered McDonald’s as a primary source of food while away from home. According to the data collected by United States Department of Agriculture and NHANES, McDonald’s feeds over 45 million people in America, about half of whom are children. The data indicate that while Americans spent about $ 3billion on fast foods annually in 1972, the figure had by 2010 risen to $110. Studies in California have indicated that a child sees about 6,000 McDonald’s television advertisements per year. The studies also indicted that while 40 percent of American food is taken away from home, McDonald’s represents 45 percent of these. Due to the numerous numbers of restaurants and advertising items, 7 in 10 children can recognize McDonald’s products (Schlosser & Eric, 2002). Research conducted in schools by the NHANES indicated that obese children are bullied and teased. This make them develop low esteem, and in effect, they avoid normal activities like sports. Such a scenario aggravates their condition.
Obesity is a condition where the body accumulates excess fat. Medical practitioners make use of guidelines that have been published based on body mass index (BMI) for age in measuring obesity in children. Alternatively, a child is considered to be obese if its weight is more that 20 percent higher than the average of children of that age. Obesity has been noted to have adverse medical effects on children lives as it increases the risk of other health problems while heightening social and emotional problems. Chances are that obesity will persist till adulthood, and this may lead to more serious ailments such as stroke and heart diseases.
It has been established that many children become obese as a result of poor parenting and ineffective health choices. There are various factors that lead to the intake of foods high in calorie content. These factors are socioeconomic as well as psychological. Psychological factors contribute when a child is dealing with boredom or stress as it is during these times when they tend to eat a lot. When undirected, they choose starchy and sugary food which heightens the chances of becoming diabetic. Socioeconomic factors are those that result due to inadequate income in a family. The family may then have inadequate resources and time to make good choices with regard to exercising and eating. Sometimes, such families opt for fast foods such as McDonald’s in order to save time for part time jobs. These are some of the factors that have lead to increase in popularity of fast foods in recent years. Fast foods appeal to many hurried persons due to their speed of meal preparation. They offer faster services and tastier meals as compared to the traditional restaurants (Rosenheck, 2008). Their meals are at times cheaper than those of other restaurants thereby attracting low-income customers.
There are various methods that help a parent keep their children in healthy weight range. When a parent delays solid food feeding at infancy, obesity is easily checked. Children should be given healthy food that is low in fat. Moreover, a child television viewing habit should be minimized as more physical exercise proves healthier. When they get older, they should be taught how to select nutritious foods and develop healthy exercising habits. There should be more concerted efforts among all stakeholders to counter increased level of advertising by fast-food stores. Competition in the media industry has lead to more advertising for less money. Therefore, media influence plays a great role in increasing the rate of obesity. Most researchers agree that family lifestyle is the major determinant of a child’s weight (Janet et al, 2009). They argue that involvement of everyone during meal preparation is important in avoiding high-calorie foods. For example, a family should avoid the storage of junk foods as they appeal to children. They should also avoid rewarding children with food, especially fast foods and sugary drinks.
There are continuing works of research meant to analyze how parents may help their children reduce weight and avoid obesity. Most of these studies focus on child nutrition as well as their growth detailing how parents influence children’s behavior with regard to exercises and eating habits. There are evidences on the way parents assist their kids to develop and preserve healthy eating habits and physical activities. This means that they play a vital role in preventing over consumption of high-calorie foods such as McDonald’s which lead to obesity and overweight. According to these studies, it is important for parents to understand and appreciate their roles in guiding their children as they undergo critical development stages from infancy to young adulthood (Davis et al 2009, p. 3). Junk and sugary fast foods and drinks need to be discouraged so that a child easily manages the levels of fat in his/her body.
Policy makers, practitioners, and researchers should step in and assist parents in raising their children in a healthy manner. They should develop and publish more effective ways of intervention and organize educational programs aimed at addressing childhood obesity at home. Policy makers in particular should enact legislation managing advertisement of fast foods like McDonald’s such that the information disseminated is not erroneous or misleading. Fast foods should also be required to clearly display their calorie content in a manner that enables informed decision making by the buyer (Cutler et al 2003, p. 95). There need to be enhanced school based obesity prevention programs such as campaigns aimed at restricting the sale of fast food to unaccompanied kids of school going ages.
There is heightened awareness of obesity as a national problem in America as a result of news media upgrading obesity related content in their publications. Federal and state authorities have passed legislations meant to help in the fight against childhood obesity such as restricting the targeted advertisement of unhealthy meals to children. These jurisdictions have also improved sporting facilities to encourage physical practice as children grow up (Abdollah, 2007). Schools have incorporated schedules for dairy sporting events in their programs as well as initiated sessions that guide students on healthy eating habits. The results have not been immediate, but more benefits can be realized if all parties involved work aggressively towards elevating obesity in children.