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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Child obesity can’t be ignored

    A few months ago, I overheard a mother and daughter in a local movie theater bathroom. The young girl was being teased at school about her weight. Her mother replied, “Stop talking about that; you’re just bigger for your age. You have a bigger build.”

    It only took a quick glance to see that both the girl and her mother were considerably overweight. This poignant conversation fueled by denial and a disregard of reality is one of the many reasons why our country is still losing the obesity battle.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 33 percent of Americans are obese, and approximately 17 percent (12.5 million) of children and adolescents from 2 to 19 years old are also obese.

    These unsettling statistics, along with the millions of parents who refuse to confront the problem, inspired Georgia’s new controversial childhood obesity campaign. Behind Mississippi, Georgia is the second leading state in childhood obesity, according to the Strong 4 Life website.

    The Strong 4 Life agency and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta partnered to create a series of commercials featuring obese children having similar conversations with their parents. The children have diabetes, hypertension and other disorders and are struggling to deal at such a young age.

    These advertisements are just what the doctor ordered. America needs a good slap in the face.

    Unfortunately, this campaign has been met with contention, as critics argue that the commercials go too far. People claim the ads will give children the wrong idea, planting the seeds for disordered thoughts that can grow into eating disorders. But this was happening even before the campaign.

    America’s constant hype over the perfect body and its perpetual use of pubescent-boy-sized female models to convey “beauty” are only a couple of the reasons why children develop distorted body images.

    But this Georgia campaign isn’t about superficiality, it’s about health. And if the parents of obese children think the former, not the latter, then they’re just facilitating the growth of their children’s future health problems like hypertension and diabetes.

    Feb. 1 is the start of American Heart Month. It’s not just another awareness month, this one has substance and should be taken seriously.

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to a study conducted last year by the CDC. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research lists high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity all as risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

    While the facts can be difficult to digest, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. The childhood obesity campaign is only trying to bring the problem to the forefront of America’s attention. A lot of this is already established news, but millions of Americans still haven’t taken it to heart.

    We can use American Heart Month and this campaign as reminders that perpetual bad habits will lead to an unhealthy body and worse, an early death. Indifference for the food and drink you consume, like alcohol and late-night pizza binges, will add up. Couple that with a lack of exercise and you’re laying the foundation for clogged arteries.

    If 8-year-olds are being diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, then we are susceptible too. In the words of Strong 4 Life, we need to stop sugarcoating the problem.

    — Kelly Hultgren is a junior studying journalism and communication. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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