Childhood Obesity: Public Policies and Gaps

Childhood obesity in the United States is an uncontrolled epidemic, despite the countless efforts of policies and programs such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Let's Move! launched by Former First Lady Michelle Obama and many other state and local policies fighting to reduce the pervasiveness of child obesity. Obesity among young children is a considerable public health emergency nationally and internationally. Such pervasiveness of obesity continues to develop among young children over the years and oftentimes progress into adulthood. This epidemic has transformed children's healthcare because obese or overweight children have a greater risk of suffering from chronic health condition (e.g., cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes). Chronic health conditions caused by obesity have a significant influence on a child's personal health and their health care expenditures. This epidemic is difficult to combat because of the absence of adequate policies from School Nutrition Programs, Physical Education, and Insurance Coverage for Obesity. This literature review aimed to evaluate public health policies and identify the factors challenging the success of policies created to reduce child obesity. Child obesity has critical economic and social impacts on medical expenditures and school absenteeism. In the United States, increased healthcare consumption and medical expenditures caused by child obesity include yearly medicine prescriptions, hospital and clinic visits and emergency room visits. The conceptual framework created to reduce child obesity in after school programs prevents obesity in children and adolescents through Policy-Level Enterprises. The conceptual framework mentioned in this literature review can be modified or utilized to support overall policy goals. Federally funded meals provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S Congress require schools to meet nutritional recommendations and comply with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nonetheless, schools struggle to meet the nutritional standards when high calorie foods and beverages are available for purchase in addition to the federally reimbursable school meal programs. Unfortunately, the USDA does not have legal power to regulate on meals and beverages sold outside of the approved lunch curriculum. Findings show that after school programs influence children and adolescents to take part in physical activity and promote healthy nutrition across the nation. Nonetheless, recent evidence shows that after school programs fall short in encouraging students to complete the recommended one-hour of physical activity, indicating that there are still considerable opportunities to improve existing programs. Local school districts with wellness policy programs promoting student health and obesity prevention need to reassess their policy every two to three years in efforts to confirm the progress made in child obesity prevention.

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