Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity

Literature Review

The prevalence of childhood obesity has continued to increase over the years. A quantitative study by Ng M and colleagues (2014) revealed that the global childhood obesity prevalence is 47%. At a national level, Rankin (2017) established that more than 33% of children aged between 2 and 19 years in the United States (U.S) are obese. The study further established that childhood obesity rate in the U.S will double by the year 2030 (Rankin, 2017). Another study to investigate the prevalence of childhood obesity by Haynes and Browne (2016) revealed that while obesity rate for children aged 5 years in the U.S is only 4.2%, the obesity prevalence increased to 12.4% by the time these children attain an age of 14 years.

Causes and consequences of childhood obesity

A qualitative study by Soltani, Ghanbari and Rad (2013) on childhood obesity in Iran established that obese children consumed less than three regular meals on daily basis and more irregular meals than their normal weight counterparts. Increased consumption of irregular meals has been positively linked with consumption of junk foods and gaining of excess weight (Soltani, Ghanbari & Rad, 2013). Additionally, Soltani and colleagues (2013) established that children who enjoy exclusive breastfeeding for a period of 4-6 months are less likely to be obese compared to their counterparts who do not. This study also established that children whose parents had a body mass index (BMI) in the 85th percentile had higher obesity rate than children whose parents had normal weight (Soltani, Ghanbari & Rad, 2013). This study suggests that BMI of obese children increases with increase in BMI of their parents (Soltani, Ghanbari & Rad, 2013).

The findings of a qualitative study by Nerud and Samra (2016) on consequences of childhood obesity concur with those of Totura, Figueroa, Wharton & Marsiglia (2015). In the two studies, authors established that obese children have reduced mental ability, peer victimization, low grades, absenteeism in school, behavioral health problems, depression, emotional problems, low self-esteem, psychological and emotional problems (Nerud and Samra, 2016; Totura et al., 2015). A study by Wilbanks (2016) identified a positive correlation between obese children and type 2 diabetes, symbiotic blood pressure, plasma insulin and high cholesterol levels.

Barriers to effective childhood obesity interventions

In a qualitative research to establish barriers to effective childhood obesity prevention, Regber, Mårild and Johansson Hanse, (2013) in southwest Sweden in 2011 and 2012 found that nurses and parents rely on visual inspection of their children to determine whether they are obese. Additionally, the study observed that most parents and nurses view childhood obesity as a sensitive topic and avoid it altogether (Regber, Mårild & Johansson Hanse, 2013). Many parents are in denial or childhood obesity and overweight status while others hinder their children from physical activity and healthy diets which prevent childhood obesity (Regber, Mårild & Johansson Hanse, 2013). Based on a qualitative study in U.S by Schroeder and Smaldone (2017), failure for childhood interventions to reflect unique needs of children’s school environment and student population acts as a barrier to childhood obesity interventions. Moreover, cultural barriers and lack of teamwork between parents, teachers and nurses in childhood obesity interventions make it difficult to address childhood obesity (Schroeder & Smaldone, 2017).

A qualitative research by Totura and colleagues (2015) in U.S identified barriers to childhood obesity interventions as lack of resources, lack of clarity in obesity prevention strategies, lack of commitment, poor physical education strategies, lack of obesity intervention training and support, and lack of collaborations to implement childhood obesity interventions. Another qualitative study by Bourgeois, Brauer, Simpson, Kim and Haines (2015) identified barriers to childhood obesity interventions as lack of time, sensitivity to the topic of childhood obesity, perceived lack of parental commitment in childhood obesity prevention, and failure for healthcare professional in primary care settings to include childhood obesity prevention information to parents during childhood immunizations and other meetings. Another challenge identified was lack of childhood obesity screening tools among parents (Bourgeois et al., 2015).

Recommendations on effective childhood obesity interventions

In their study, Schroeder and Smaldone (2017) reiterate on importance of engaging school nurses for effectiveness in school-based childhood obesity interventions. They also recommend for childhood obesity intervention designs to that identify and address barriers to effective implementation before they are put in place (Schroeder & Smaldone, 2017). Their recommendations agree with those of Bourgeois and colleagues (2015) who call for effective and engaging childhood obesity interventions in primary care settings to involve parents in childhood obesity interventions during their routine visits. In addition, Totura et al. (2015) calls for collaborations between stakeholders, schools and nurses to help predict and increase student’s participation in physical activity. Schools should increase access to healthy foods and develop a comprehensive school-based health services for students to prevent obesity (Tortura et al., 2015).

A qualitative study by Soltani, Ghanbari and Rad (2013) recommends for more accurate childhood obesity prevention interventions that focus on risk factors associated with childhood obesity. Some of the proposed interventions include promotion of neonatal and pre-pregnancy care and improvements on exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months of life (Soltani, Ghanbari & Rad, 2013). Similarly, parents should embrace obesity prevention and control interventions for their children to model since BMI of obese children whose parents are obese increases with increase in BMI of their parents (Soltani, Ghanbari & Rad, 2013)


Bourgeois, N., Brauer, P., Simpson, J., Kim, S., & Haines, J. (2015). Interventions for prevention

of childhood obesity in primary care: A qualitative study. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 4(2), E194-E199.

Haynes, B., & Browne, N. (2016). Childhood obesity, health literacy, and the newest

vital sign. Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing, 5(2), 32-33.

Nerud, K., & Samra, H. (2016). Make a move intervention to reduce childhood obesity.

The Journal of School of Nursing, 33(3), 205-213.

Ng M, Fleming T, Robinson M, Thompson B, Graets N, Margono C, et al. (2014) Golbal, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 2014;384(9945):766-81

Rankin, A. (2017). Childhood obesity partnerships: The intersection of clinics and

community to create sustainable change. Journal of Pediatric Surgical Nursing, 6(2), 29-30.

Regber, S., Mårild, S., & Johansson Hanse, J. (2013). Barriers to and facilitators of nurse-parent interaction intended to promote healthy weight gain and prevent childhood obesity at Swedish child health centers. BMC Nursing12(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6955-12-27


Schroeder, K., & Smaldone, A. (2017). What barriers and facilitators do school nurses

experience when implementing an obesity intervention? The Journal of School Nursing. Retrieved from

Soltani, P., Ghanbari, A., & Rad, H. (2013). Obesity related factors in school-aged children.

Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 18(3), 175-179.

Totura, C., Figueroa, H., Wharton, C., & Marsiglia, F. (2015). Assessing implementation of

evidence-based childhood obesity prevention strategies in schools. Preventive Medicine Reports, 2, 347-354.

Wilbanks, S. (2016). Childhood obesity. Journal for Nurse Practitioners 12(1), e35.

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