Global obesity is as much of an epidemic worldwide as it is in America. Internationally over 22 million children under the age of 5 are overweight. Developing countries have seen an increase in child obesity as they adapt to westernized lifestyles and behaviors. In some cases the child obesity rates have surpassed the rates in America which have doubled in the past few decades.
The increase in global obesity from early childhood to adolescents affects all racial and ethnic groups. Studies in the USA show that almost 8% of children between the ages of 4 and 5 are overweight. Global obesity in children affects girls more often than boys. As a matter of fact, over the past 20 years overweight and obese young girls has doubled while the increase in boys was less than 25%. Interestingly though, the same study showed that children over the age of 6 nearly doubled for both boys as well as girls. Additionally overweight was highest among Mexican American children followed by non-Hispanic black children and non-Hispanic white children. In the United States alone the number of preschool children that are considered overweight is almost 22% and those that are obese 10% those numbers are an increase since 1983 when the numbers were 18.6% and 8.5%.
Global obesity in industrial countries are finding similar results. In Japan, for instance, between 1974 and 1983 children between the ages of 6 and 14 have seen an increase in obesity from 5% to 10%. Developing countries obesity rates are also rising steadily and in some instances so are the malnourished rates. For example: Northern Africa’s child obesity rate is in excess of 8% and malnourished over 7%, South America, which historically was known for malnourished and underweight, now reports almost 5% of preschool children as overweight and malnourished only 1.8%, Eastern Asia preschool children overweight 4.3% and malnourished 3.4%. Child obesity rates in some countries have surpassed those of the United States such as: Argentina, Egypt, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria, Peru, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and South Africa. It seems clear that global obesity in children is no longer a Western issue. It is now found in all industrialized countries and some developing countries. Case in point: Seychelles ( a middle income island state in the Indian Ocean), which is in a rapid economic growth, reports 13.5% of boys and 18.6% of girls as overweight and 5.2% of boys and 6.2% of girls as obese. These figures on Seychelles are as high or higher than those in some industrialized countries. Developing countries are realizing the need to adjust their public health priorities in order to combat childhood obesity. There is a need for programs and policies aimed at promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in countries in economic transition.
Who is to blame for the westernization of global obesity? Some would like to blame McDonald’s. Ever since they opened their first restaurant outside of the U.S. Borders (1967 Canada) child obesity rates have increased. It was only a few years later that they made their way to the United Kingdom and Japan. Fast food is one of the causes of global obesity. Modernized inventions; such as computers and video games , and their popularity have contributed to sedentary lifestyles. Of course, the combination is a perfect recipe for weight gain. Parents must take responsibility by setting a good example and promoting a healthier environment.
Obesity is an epidemic that has serious personal and societal consequences. Parents, governments, and local communities must take responsibility for identifying the problems.