The most common cause of the decrease in children’s physical activity is that technology has made it more attractive for children to lead a sedentary life. Children are more than adequately entertained by the multitude of choices on television shows, internet sites and computer games. Furedi (2006) explains the cause of obesity to be consumption of too much food eaten throughout the day coupled with a lack of activity to burn the calories ingested. One theory that would help analyse childhood obesity in an organized manner is Brofenbrenner’s Ecological Model (1979).
This explains that the individual’s biological and personality factors, environment and the society and culture he was born into all interplay in his development. Brofenbrenner (1979) also claims that the effects of interactions between the individual and his environment are two-directional or characterised by reciprocity. This means that while a child’s development is influenced and moulded by his family, school and peers, he likewise influences and moulds the behaviour of others around him. This is reflective of the child’s lifestyle practices with regards to diet and exercise; a child’s health depends on his family’s attitude to healthy eating and exercise and the provisions of society.
The Ecological model explains that the growing child moves through five systems that inter-relate and affect his development. Each of these levels shall be analysed to see how obesity may develop in the child and likewise strategies should aim to fit in to one or more of these systems in order to be effective. The first level is the microsystem, where a child first learns various behaviours such as health practices.
The child’s family is part of this microsystem, and his primary providers of his basic needs. The psychological and sociological influences of the microsystem imprints an effect on the young child because lifestyle factors of families may greatly influence the child’s tendency for obesity since families share dietary habits and lifestyle choices (Sallies & Glanz, 2006). For example, if families enjoy eating fast food, which are mostly fatty, then the child is trained to prefer such tastes. Also, if the family does not value exercise, then the child adopts the same view. The next system is the mesosystem which focuses on all of the different environments which the child interacts with.
For example, to combat the problem of childhood obesity, one of the government’s initiative is The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) which aims to ensure children’s health through implementing child-friendly activities in the school environment to educate them on good health and nutrition.
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