Portrait of Two Children

The Harms Neglected by Childhood Obesity Campaigns

Childhood obesity campaigns largely ignore the 4.5 million children in America who are already living with severe childhood obesity. A new study in Child Development provides a vivid understanding of how severe obesity shapes the social and emotional lives of these children by the time they enter sixth grade. While children with milder excess weight or obesity might be neglected by their peers, those with severe obesity were far more likely to be rejected outright. Lead author Amanda Harrist explained:

Children who are ostracized, as occurred with the severely overweight children in our study, suffer great harm, with feelings of loneliness, depression, and aggression, and these children are more likely to skip school and drop out later.

This new study is compelling because it provides the first detailed analysis of the social and emotional experiences of children with severe obesity. The work examines a large, community-based sample.

With the unrelenting growth of severe childhood obesity, it’s jarring to think that childhood obesity campaigns do nothing to address the needs of children with severe obesity and their families. The only notable exceptions have been campaigns that scornfully featured kids with severe obesity. Thankfully those are mostly gone from the scene.

Better school lunches and more physical activity represent good achievements. But none of that will put a dent in the harm that 4.5 million kids with severe obesity are suffering every day. The harm is medical, psychological, and social. The harm will continue to grow until we step up to address it.

Childhood obesity campaigns that neglect kids with severe obesity are embarrassing. A generation of kids is at risk because of a medical problem we’re ignoring.

Click here for the study in Child Development, here for more from the study’s authors, and here for more on the challenge of addressing severe childhood obesity.

Portrait of Two Children, painting by Paul Gauguin / WikiArt

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May 27, 2016

2 Responses to “The Harms Neglected by Childhood Obesity Campaigns”

  1. May 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm, Allen Browne said:

    The unmeasured, ignored comorbidity that everyone knows about. The elephant in the living room who is invisible in plain sight. The comorbidity that comes on first. The comorbidity that the “healthy” ones have.

    Wow! Good reference for me Thanks!

    • May 27, 2016 at 5:09 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Allen!