by Nora Strumpf, BTC Student
The power of social media should be embraced as a viable option to improve our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.
Childhood obesity is an epidemic that cannot be ignored. According to the American Psychological Association, “approximately 20% of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates in preschool age children increasing at an alarming speed.” Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that childhood obesity has made significant progress in the United States – however, this has been proven as premature upon a second analysis of the data.
Childhood obesity places youth at risk for having a multitude of health problems as adults, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and forms of cancer. Additionally, childhood obesity leads to poor self-esteem and depression. In recent times, we have seen childhood obesity worsen. Although first lady Michelle Obama has brought this issue to our attention and has shown excitement about progress, a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has proven that childhood obesity rates have not actually improved (huffingtonpost.com). This issue is certainly not one that our society isn’t aware of; numerous efforts have already been made to try and resolve this problem. Specifically, organizations such as the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) have been dedicated to educating the public about the dangers and prevalence of this issue. Recently, the OAC signed a nutrition agreement with the backing of hundreds of organizations, which sought to ensure that healthier foods would be sold in schools. However, the amendment did not pass.
Curbing the childhood obesity epidemic is a process that requires a multi-sectoral approach. Through the mobilization of nonprofit organizations, private sectors, governments and the civil society, a more comprehensive strategy to resolving this issue can be made.
The power of social media should be embraced as a viable option to improve our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. Whereas traditional methods of weight loss may be boring or discouraging, the immediacy of going online may be more appealing to our youth. There are already a number of resources online which can be utilized to discuss and reduce childhood obesity. One example is Weigh2Rock.com, which allows children and teenagers to anonymously discuss issues surrounding weight loss, healthy eating and success stories (webmd.com). This powerful tool creates a support network for those who otherwise may be too shy or embarrassed to publicly discuss their weight issues.
Developing a social network for children comparable to Weight Watchers may be a good idea. This network would be similar to the Weigh2Rock platform, though it would have more structure and rigid guidelines. This network could allow children to track what they are eating and learn more about nutrition through games and tutorials. Also, through the social component of the network, both children and parents would be able to discuss what’s on their minds with immediate feedback.
Of course, the link between social media and behavioral changes are still being researched. While technology-based interventions can be meaningful, it has not yet been proven as a sure-fire way to appropriately fight obesity. (abcnews.com) However, through the mobilization power of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, organizations can at the very minimum disseminate new research and findings in regards to this issue it arises. This not only minimizes the stigma surrounding obesity, but it allows for a more ubiquitous presence of this topic.