Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic

Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic

by Laura Dawes


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Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic by Laura Dawes

A century ago, a plump child was considered a healthy child. No longer. An overweight child is now known to be at risk for maladies ranging from asthma to cardiovascular disease, and obesity among American children has reached epidemic proportions. Childhood Obesity in America traces the changes in diagnosis and treatment, as well as popular understanding, of the most serious public health problem facing American children today.

Excess weight was once thought to be something children outgrew, or even a safeguard against infectious disease. But by the mid-twentieth century, researchers recognized early obesity as an indicator of lifelong troubles. Debates about its causes and proper treatment multiplied. Over the century, fat children were injected with animal glands, psychoanalyzed, given amphetamines, and sent to fat camp. In recent decades, an emphasis on taking personal responsibility for one's health, combined with commercial interests, has affected the way the public health establishment has responded to childhood obesity--and the stigma fat children face. At variance with this personal emphasis is the realization that societal factors, including fast food, unsafe neighborhoods, and marketing targeted at children, are strongly implicated in weight gain. Activists and the courts are the most recent players in the obesity epidemic's biography.

Today, obesity in this age group is seen as a complex condition, with metabolic, endocrine, genetic, psychological, and social elements. Laura Dawes makes a powerful case that understanding the cultural history of a disease is critical to developing effective health policy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674281448
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/09/2014
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Laura Dawes is a historian of medicine living in Cheshire, England.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 Measurement and Diagnosis

1 How Big Is Normal? 21

Quantifying Children's Body Size

2 Measuring Up 41

Height-Weight Standards and Diagnosis

3 Sugar, Spice, Frogs, Snails 59

The Composition of the Fat Child

4 Insides Made Easy 72

Measuring and Diagnosing Obesity Using Body Composition

Part 2 Causes and Treatments

5 Something Wrong Inside 87

Childhood Obesity as a Biological Fault, and the Hope for a Drug Treatment

6 The Enduring Promise 100

The Continued Search for a Pharmaceutical Remedy

7 Feeling Fat 115

Emotions and Family as Factors in Childhood Obesity

8 Kalorie Kids 133

Energy Balance and the Turn to Child Responsibility

9 Summer Slimming 159

Fat Camps as a Diet-and-Exercise Obesity Treatment

Part 3 Epidemic

10 Bigger Bodies in a Broken World 173

Television and the Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

11 Fat Kids Go to Court 191

Legal Action as Public Health Response to Childhood Obesity

Conclusion 209

Notes 219

Acknowledgments 295

Index 297

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