Childhood obesity: a societal problem to solve

Obes Rev. 2003 Feb;4(1):57-71. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-789x.2003.00093.x.


In contrast to other threats to American children's health, the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity are considered the responsibility of individual children and their parents. This pressure exists in the context of the societal stigmatization of overweight children and the powerful environmental inducements aimed directly at children to eat nutritionally poor foods. Parents of overweight children are left in the difficult position of fearing the social and health consequences of their child's obesity, and fighting a losing battle against the omnipotent presence of the media and constant exposure to unhealthy foods. This paper brings together several literatures to provide a comprehensive examination of the major challenges facing obese children and their families. In particular, this paper documents the extent of stigmatization towards overweight children and reviews evidence of the conflicting advice given to parents about how to help children develop healthful eating in the face of biological and learned food preferences. We conclude with a call for a shift in thinking about the role of our society in the aetiology, treatment and prevention of childhood obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising
  • Child
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Child Nutrition Disorders / psychology
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Energy Intake
  • Family Health
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting*
  • Prevalence
  • Social Environment*
  • Stereotyping
  • United States / epidemiology