Childhood obesity is hardly a new problem in the U.S., but now more so than ever before, researchers are striving to find new ways to encourage young Americans — and their parents — to be more conscious about their health. And although many people are inclined to balk at the idea of allowing federal regulations to control dietary restrictions, new research shows that these regulations might just be an important strategy for lowering the country’s obesity rate.
A study conducted by Dr. Ross Brownson, a professor and researcher at the Brown School and the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, shows that a mandated tax on sugar-packed foods and drinks may be able to lower obesity rates, especially for young children. The study, titled “Reducing Childhood Obesity Through U.S. Federal Policy: A Microsimulation Analysis,” appeared in the August 27 edition of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, and it shows that childhood obesity could be mitigated by a government-enforced tax on sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and any other drinks with added sweeteners. This tax is one-third of a federal program, proposed by Dr. Brownson, which would involve an increase in after-school athletic programs and a ban on fast food advertisements shown during children’s TV shows.
The study’s microsimulation showed that all three programs would help reduce childhood and adolescent obesity in the U.S., and that each program could be successful on its own, but that the tax on sweets would be the most effective program in terms of health awareness and cost effectiveness.
One important aspect that could make or break these programs, however cannot be mandated by the government: and that aspect is whether or not children receive support at home and at school, and whether they are strongly encouraged by others to make healthy lifestyle choices. Other health organizations and research groups, such as the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP), address this concern by directing campaigns at adults and parents, encouraging them to help young children stay aware of how their decisions affect their health.
And these parent-friendly tips don’t just focus on which foods to avoid — the key here is to make sure that we approach our health with a holistic attitude. For example, healthy lifestyle choices could include everything from becoming more active in the morning, to turning down the thermostat at night (which, according to the American Diabetes Association, gets your metabolism moving faster).
This holistic approach shouldn’t just stop once you leave the house, either. As Dr. Brownson states, his research will hopefully “inform federal policy as national leaders plan efforts to address childhood obesity,” and will encourage prominent figures to promote healthier lifestyles, no matter what age they may be.