Childhood Obesity: More Things to Worry About

AmbulanceWe know that kids in America and all over the world are miserable about their excess body weight. We know that obesity in the young can lead to the early onset of severe medical conditions that used to mainly afflict adults. We know that, for many people, food addiction is as real and as dangerous as addiction to hard drugs, liquor, or gambling. Things were already bad enough. But, every day, the news provides more things to worry about.

There are different schools of thought about the role of physical activity and exercise in the childhood obesity epidemic. Some feel that exercise really doesn’t make that much of a difference. Others can give you 14 reasons why it does make a difference in the obesity levels of kids. But it is pretty much agreed that a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t do anybody any good. One of the things contributing to the extensive amount of sitting around is the prevalence of screens, namely, on televisions, computers, and electronic gaming devices.

Well, it’s about to get worse. George Wong of Ubergizmo broke it gently to those who might have thought childhood obesity could be reduced by one category of games that encourage more physical activity. The bad news is, another whole category of games won’t even require hand movements. He says,

At CES this year, National Instruments showed off an eye-controller that allowed you to play video games using your eyes. Different commands can be input just by you looking in different directions and blinking. You don’t even have to move your body anymore! Now your hands can be free to put some snacks in your mouth while you play your favorite video games.

For a long time, television was the biggest culprit in the brainwashing of children and adults alike, convincing us that life is not complete unless there is food or drink in your hand, on its way to your stomach. The ongoing bombardment of TV advertising has been a constant theme in most of our lives, telling us how much we need the latest sugar-saturated treat.

Sean Poulter reported for the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail on the newest childhood obesity threat — the stealth marketing campaigns being employed by food corporations. Social networking sites and chat rooms are the focus of the movement to convince kids to advertise soda pop and junk food to their friends, and get paid for it in money-off coupons and free samples.

When the government tightened up on television advertising, the selling game simply moved to another arena. A website called Dubit has recruited tens of thousands of kids to take part. The members of the sales force are called “brand ambassadors,” and their activities are not confined to electronic communications. They are also encouraged to put up flyers and hold parties where their friends will sample the products.

The 7-to-12-year-olds start off only doing online promotion to friends they already know, and branch out into wider fields as they get older. As an extra incentive to today’s pragmatic-minded, career-oriented kids, the Dubit marketing site suggests that kids can list this as work experience on their resumés and their applications for higher education.

Critics are concerned about websites designed for the young because, among other things, they collect excessive amount of personal information. Some compare it to cyber-stalking. But never fear. It’s all okay with the government’s Food Standards Agency. Poulter tells us,

The company insists there are safeguards to prevent exploitation. Anyone under 16 has to get their parents’ permission, which is checked by a member of the Dubit team.

And then there is news from the fringes, of happenings so unlikely that you think you picked up the satirical publication The Onion by mistake. In Boston, an ambulance was successfully retrofitted to hold obese patients weighing up to 850 pounds. The city’s department of emergency medical services predicts that it will be needed around three times a week. Of course, everybody is concerned about the safety and comfort of the patients experiencing medical emergencies. They would also like to prevent further back injuries among the medical personnel. The hydraulic lift, capable of hoisting 1,000 pounds, should take care of that.

And at The Freeman, William L. Anderson tells us about Paul Mason, formerly the world’s fattest man at 890 pounds, who in his most obese days was accustomed to ingesting enough food to supply him with 20,000 calories per day. When he decided to slim down, the National Health Service paid for his gastic bypass operation. But that was not enough. Mason has convinced himself that his obesity problem was the fault of Her Majesty’s government, and plans to sue.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The new era of laziness: eye-controlled gaming,” Ubergizmo.com, 01/10/11
Source: “Child ‘mini-marketeers’ paid by junk food firms to secretly push products among their friends,” Daily Mail, 01/15/10
Source: “Boston debuts ambulance for obese patients,” Reuters, 01/11/11
Source: “Sue the Government,” The Freeman Online, 01/12/11
Image by gwire, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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