The childhood obesity epidemic is a social, economic, and public health challenge (Wechsler, et al, 2004). It constitutes a critical threat to the health and well-being of our nation, as rates have risen dramatically over the past decades. The United States now has the highest rate of childhood obesity among all developed nations (Kluger, 2008). Its mitigation requires a multi-disciplinary strategy, as it has become a serious public health concern, not only in the U.S., but also worldwide. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, over the last thirty years, the number of overweight children has doubled, while the number has almost tripled among adolescents (Ogden and Carroll, 2010). The main issue is that children and adolescents are eating unhealthy high calorie, high fat, processed foods, and are not getting enough physical activity.
Children, in contrast to adults, are treated as unable to weigh the future consequences of their actions. Children may have a poor understanding of the long-term health consequences of overeating or lack of physical activity. In the case that they have adequate information, they may assign minimal importance to problems in the distant future. Therefore, government actively regulates the decisions of children more strictly than those of adults. Additionally, when children are enrolled in the public school system, the government acts in loco parentis; thus, it is important to consider the relationship of school policies, especially regarding nutrition and physical activity, to the childhood obesity epidemic (Acs and Lyles, 2007).
Unless industry, the public, and the government work together to address the issue, we will be faced with significant consequences for individuals, businesses, and society at large in the very near future. In fact, the National Initiative for Children’s Health Care Quality (NICHQ) predicts that if childhood obesity is not addressed “three in four Americans will become overweight or obese by 2020” (Childhood Obesity, 2011).
Addressing the childhood obesity epidemic requires a multi-disciplinary strategy, sharing of resources, and political support. I argue that the government needs to play a more active role in fighting obesity through regulation. Childhood obesity is the fastest growing health problem in America (Acs and Lyles, 2007) and something needs to be done about it. In this paper, I discuss specific policy recommendations that may be helpful in combating the childhood obesity epidemic. I argue that childhood obesity is more than just a demand problem, that is, the case is not that children just eat too much. The government needs to look at the supply side of the problem, as well, and to regulate the availability of unhealthy food more strictly.