Medical professionals are in talks about the state of obese children because the nation as a whole is facing an epidemic, with Mississippians in the worse shape, but the youngest Americans are also in dire condition. It's no surprise that First Lady Michelle Obama is on a crusade to combat childhood obesity. Obese children become obese adults at risk for cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, so Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston is advocating to get out the root of the problem with parents.
Parents and especially mothers play a major role in their children's diets by purchasing and selecting the food for the household. Older children can spend what little spending money they have on unhealthy snacks but the majority of their meals are planned by their parents and their eating habits are developed at an early age.
"Numerous parental influences shape the eating habits of youth including; the choice of an infant feeding method, the foods they make available and accessible, the amount of time children are left unsupervised and their eating interactions with others in the social context. Several studies suggest that breastfeeding offers a small but consistent protective effect against obesity in children," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises.
"Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said in an opinion piece in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. "But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered."
Ludwig says he was convinced that parents are behind the dilemma after he was introduced to a 90-pound 3-year-old girl years ago whose parents had physical disabilities, a small household income and trouble helping her control her weight.
Last year at 12-years-old she was 400 pounds and developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. But now after a year removed from her family and placed in foster care eating 3 supervised meals and healthy snacks, she lost 130 pounds.
If the government enforces stricter enforcement "we just have to do it with caution and humility and make sure we really can say that our interventions are going to do more good than harm," as medical ethicist Dr. Lainie Ross from the University of Chicago says.
Ross is right but foster care seems extreme and may not be the most beneficial solution for a child. But it is time to better educate parents on how the decisions they make effect the lives their children lead. Medical professionals in London seem to be in agreement with Ludwig and "they argued that child protection services should be considered if parents are neglectful or actively reject efforts to control an extremely obese child's weight;" reports AP.
Alternatives to Ludwigs plans would be family counseling instead of removal. Or if removal is necessary perhaps the child can stay with a better educated family member like Jerri Gray, a Greenville, S.C., who lost custody of her 554 pound 14-year-old to her sister. Ludwig says ideally he would want the goal to be reuniting child and family as soon as possible.
Is Ludwig's proposal reasonable?