Childhood Obesity: The Other Epidemic
After cracking down on healthcare, education, and property, the Chinese Communist Party is now turning its attention to childhood obesity. In China, 20 percent of children are either overweight or obese. Contrary to popular belief, nothing good comes from carrying excessive amounts of weight. Now, Beijing is ready to take action.
In a recent piece for the South China Morning Post, Jane Cai describes the workout schedule of Steve Li. On Saturdays, he swims for 90 minutes; this is followed by another 90 minutes of roller-skating training. “In the afternoon,” writes Cai, Steve “sweats on a badminton court for two hours.” Not finished there, he ends the day “with 30 minutes of rope skipping.” Steve Li is a nine-year-old child.
This routine sounds extreme because it is extreme. No child should be exercising this vigorously in one day. However, desperate to shake off the “Sick Man of Asia” moniker, the Chinese regime is determined to turn China into a country of Steve Li’s. After limiting the amount of video games available to children under the age of 18, youngsters now have more time to exercise—whether they like it or not.
Why should any of this matter to Americans? China, the United States biggest competitor, is putting a plan in place to ensure its next generation of workers and soldiers—its citizens—are healthier.
Now, one can debate the definition of healthy. After all, how healthy can one be while subjected to China’s grueling 996 work culture? How healthy can a person be if he is living under a cruel and unusual social credit system? But for the purpose of this piece, I am talking about slimmer, fitter citizens, the kind of people who can walk up a flight of stairs without needing assistance or having to catch their breath. In the U.S., according to the CDC, obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents. A recent CDC study found that figure has risen, over the course of the pandemic, to 22 percent. In other words, the situation in the U.S. is at least as bad as it is in China, if not worse.
As Beijing targets this weighty issue, perhaps the Biden administration should do the same. The chances of that occurring, however, are incredibly slim. My pessimism is entirely justified.
For well over 18 months, we have been told to mask up, respect social distancing mandates, sanitize our hands, and isolate ourselves repeatedly. Yet no one from the Biden administration has discussed the importance of exercise and healthy eating. Covid-19 has always posed more of a risk to the obese than to their slimmer, healthier counterparts. In fact, nine out of ten Covid-19 deaths have been in countries with high rates of obesity.
In the U.S., the state of Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the land; it also happens to have the second highest Covid-related death rate. Hawaii, meanwhile, has the lowest obesity rate; it also has the lowest amount of deaths with Covid-19. Coincidence? I think not. Not once, in all his press briefings and various interviews, has Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed the importance of good nutrition and cardiovascular health.
To address the problem of obesity, it must first be acknowledged. Although one needn’t dedicate 390 minutes of his day (like the aforementioned Steve Li) to exercise, some sort of action must be taken. The importance of our food environment, including our children’s, cannot be emphasized enough. If you are what you eat, then what is the United States becoming?
By 2030, according to current estimations, the world will be home to more than 250 million obese children; 17 million of these will be American. While the world is understandably fixated on the current pandemic, few are discussing the obesity epidemic. Not surprisingly, overweight and obese children are likely to become overweight and obese adults; they’re also more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a much younger age. Childhood obesity is fast becoming the most serious public health challenge of the 21st century; it has a profoundly negative impact on children’s physical health and emotional well-being, as well as their self-esteem. Research suggests that childhood obesity is positively correlated with poorer educational attainment. It’s also positively correlated with depression and cancer.
Again, nothing—absolutely nothing—good comes from obesity. Yet, for some perverse reason, the Biden administration fails to mention this very obvious fact. Of course, weight is very sensitive issue; as society becomes more fragile, the reason for the Biden administration’s lack of desire to call out the American public becomes more and more obvious. However, tiptoeing around this very costly issue helps no one. Ignorance is not entirely blissful.
A healthier workforce is a more potent one and cardiovascularly healthier people are, on average, far more productive. Not surprisingly, there exists a positive correlation between cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive health. Children and adolescents, ages 6-17, require at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day. Sadly, almost 60 percent of American children lack healthy cardiorespiratory fitness.
Which brings us back to the Chinese regime’s most recent crackdown. Will Beijing be successful in its attempt to curb childhood obesity? Who knows. But the United States should assume that it will. To compete with China, the United States needs its citizens to be at their sharpest, both mentally and physically. Childhood obesity is an issue that must be addressed immediately. Time is very much of the essence. It might sound cruel to say, but the numerous elephants in the room must be addressed.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of National Review, New York Post, South China Morning Post, and the Sydney Morning Herald. He can be found on Twitter at @ghlionn.