Youth Obesity as a Growing Health Concern

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Youth Obesity as a Growing Health Concern

Introduction

In today’s population, especially in the Western world, childhood obesity is becoming a potential health problem. Obesity in children is on the rise, thanks to a western lifestyle that promotes poor eating patterns and sedentary behavior. Obesity is a medical disorder characterized by an abundance of body fat or adipose tissue. Obesity may be caused by a number of causes, including sedentary diets and unhealthy dietary patterns, as well as hereditary and psychological factors. If a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 30, he or she is considered obese. This epidemic often affects girls, resulting in a health crisis known as childhood obesity. One of the most serious consequences of childhood obesity is that it is more likely to contribute to adulthood obesity in young people. According to statistical projections, almost two-thirds of Australian adults would be obese by 2025 if the present incidence rate of childhood obesity persists. This paper would focus on youth obesity as a growing health concern. This will also provide a proposal for a strategy to solve this life-threatening health issue.

Youth Obesity as a Growing Health Concern

An Overview of the Issue

Childhood obesity was selected as the evolving health concern for this final paper because it is a subject that is highly important in today’s culture. For example, according to new studies, obesity is now one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States (Lacey, 2010). Obesity in children has no universally agreed meaning.

The fact that this problem is chronic is a huge burden. Since this health crisis begins in childhood, children must deal with the repercussions for the rest of their lives. Clearly, one of the main problems of youth obesity is the high cost of treatment. Any child does not receive adequate care as a result of this dilemma. Obesity, doctors warn, will contribute to a slew of other serious health issues, including coronary disease, asthma, insomnia, and cancer. Obese kids are often more likely to have such health conditions including liver failure, early puberty, eating disorders, skin diseases, asthma, and respiratory problems. Governments and other public policy agencies are being pushed to invest vast sums in order to meet the rising health-care expenses associated with youth obesity. To offer you an example, the US invests $147 billion a year on obesity-related health issues, and according to a new McKinsey survey (as quoted in Korbe, 2012), this number could grow to $320 billion per year by 2018. Obese adolescents, according to research, are especially prone to mental and psychological issues. Obese girls, for example, find it incredibly challenging to live a regular life. They have a tendency to feel inferior to others, which has an effect on their lives. Children who are obese as children are often teased by their classmates and discriminated against by their families, according to psychologists. These activities clearly have a detrimental effect on children’s emotional wellbeing, since they can develop a feeling of alienation. Obese children are more likely to have poor self-esteem and depression because of this. Obese infants, on the other hand, perform badly mentally as opposed to average children. As a result, the patients of this illness are unable to contribute positively to the nation’s economic development. In other terms, obese children increase a country’s economic pressure. Obesity in children has been related to an elevated mortality risk in adults.

Obesity obviously has the biggest effect on adolescents. To justify, obese adolescents are forced to hold this lifelong health problem for the remainder of their lives. Furthermore, during the past few decades, the prevalence of childhood obesity has grown sharply. According to Han, Lawlor, and Kimm (2010), the incidence rate of childhood obesity has increased or tripled in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Finland, Chile, Greece, and Japan from the 1970s to the 1990s. According to Han et al. (2010), a large proportion of children in the WHO areas of North America and the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, the Western Pacific, and Southeast Asia would be overweight or obese in the coming years.

Programme Initiatives

Prevention is the better strategy to deal with this health condition as there is no proved treatment for childhood obesity yet. As children are the audience group most affected by this issue, prevention programs must focus on the family environment. It is clear that a child will be usually with its family when it passes through early growth stages.   

As researchers point out, family lifestyle can be one of the major contributory factors to childhood obesity. Family lifestyle practices such as eating, shopping, and exercise can have a great influence on one’s abnormal body weight problem. In addition, children who are addicted to prolonged television watching and computer usage are most likely to be affected by an excessive accumulation of fat. Finally, refraining from regular physical activities also increases children’s risk of developing childhood obesity. Therefore, a family-based action plan would be extremely potential to regulate this chronic health problem successfully.  

The prevention program planned here particularly focuses on children’s dietary habits and lifestyle culture. As Minelli and Breckon (2009, p. 82) report, lifestyle change programs are intended to produce healthy lifestyle changes among the targeted audience group. Furthermore, the program will try to provide children with good health education. In addition, the program requires active involvement of other family members, specifically parents. As demonstrated in a YouTube video, encouraging more fruits and vegetable ingestion and limitation of stationary activities like prolonged TV watching also constitute the program (“Saying No to Fattening Foods”). This program would be a comprehensive framework that suggests a healthy lifestyle culture for children. Once the child learns good dietary patterns and other healthy habits from the family, it is likely to continue this lifestyle for the rest of their life. Since family is a child’s first learning environment, the proposed family-based prevention program can be very effective to address the growing childhood obesity issues.     

The main goal of this health program is to grow awareness of childhood obesity among people. Generally, children spend a significant amount of their time in the family, and, hence, it is important to keep parents and other grown up family members informed of the complications of this long term health condition. It is a fact that majority of the modern people are not actually concerned about the implications of their eating habits.  Undoubtedly, children and their caregivers would shift to a healthy lifestyle culture once they realized the dreadful impacts of childhood obesity. Another objective of this program is to enlighten people about how to fight this health issue. More precisely, this program aims to provide the audience group with a good lifestyle habit that would minimize the chances of an excessive body fat accumulation.  The ultimate aim of the planned prevention program is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity in the country, and, hence, to help the government to reduce costs associated with prevention and intervention. In a long term perspective, this response program aims to improve the overall health of the chosen audience group.

Providing peer education for children and their parents is the primary element of the prevention program. Better awareness on the issue is necessary to obtain active people involvement in the program. For instance, daily physical activities for at least 60 minutes would help people keep obesity/overweight problems under control. This information may persuade people to include such a healthy lifestyle practice in their daily life. This program depends on social marketing techniques to promote the responsive action plan. According to Stellefson and Eddy (2008), social marketing is an effective strategy to market health education. For instance, it is better to organize TV and online campaigns to make people aware of the growing prevalence of childhood obesity in the country. In addition, community based workshop programs can be organized for families as a part of the prevention program. It also includes counseling programs for obese children in order to give them emotional or psychological support. The proposed program strongly suggests concerned healthcare authorities should check children for overweight/obesity at least once a year.  

Attribution theory is one of the major health behavior theories used in the proposed childhood obesity program. The theory was first proposed by Fritz Heider. According to this theory, people tend to provide a causal explanation for events in their daily life if they are unexpected and have personal relevance. Based on this theory, people will try to seek a casual explanation for a serious illness. Therefore, if people realize the childhood obesity is a serious health condition, they will certainly seek a causal explanation which is really beneficial to keep them informed of different prevention strategies. The planned action framework is also supported by the health belief model (HBM). The HBM states that if an individual is vulnerable to a severe condition, this situation will act as a cue to take action so as to spark change. Hence, if people understand that they are vulnerable to obesity, they will certainly take immediate actions to bring necessary changes to their current lifestyle.     

Program Implementation and Evaluation

First, it is essential to convince parents about the necessity of restricting the amount of sugar-laden soft drinks and calorie-rich food items consumed by children. In addition, children must be advised to take homely food instead of fast food, which contain excess amount of fat (“Saying No to Afternoon Sweets”). Guidance must be given to children on the essentiality of following a proper time schedule for eating. However, in order to implement this prevention program effectively in the family environment, first parents and other grown up members must be ready to shift to a healthy lifestyle culture. Hence, the suggested prevention program will pay particular attention to organizing workshop classes for parents.   

Active involvement of community health organizations is vital to evaluate the outcomes of this prevention program. Those social interest organizations have to periodically examine children in their area to assess the effectiveness of the program implemented. In addition, it is better to assess the number of childhood obesity cases reported in health institutions after the implementation of the program.

Influence of the Program on Overall Health of the Community

Surely, this program can have significant influences on the health of the target audience as well as overall health of the community. Since this program makes children and their parents aware of the complications of childhood obesity, the audience group and the overall community would be concerned about the seriousness of this health condition. According to the attribution theory and the health belief model, people would seek casual explanation for their life events and accept a shift in lifestyle once they realize that they are affected by a serious health problem. Adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors by the audience group for a lifetime is expected to be one of the major achievements of the prevention program designed. Through counseling techniques, this program can promote a behavior modification in obese children. When obese children feel a sense of belonging and maintain a positive approach towards the life, it would be easy for one to manage their health condition. This prevention program would accomplish a range of societal as well as environmental changes which are vital to address the issue of childhood obesity. Evidently, when the frequency of childhood obesity is reduced in the society, this, in turn, would minimize the risk of adulthood obesity. The ultimate result is that the overall health of the community is thus improved.   

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it is clear that childhood obesity is growing to be a major health issue in developed countries, particularly Australia and the United States. Children constitute the audience group most affected by this health problem. Its chronic nature, dreadful complications like heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer, and high cost of care intensify the challenges of this health condition. In order to tackle this problem, a family-based prevention program is proposed. Peer education, social marketing, community-based workshops, and counseling programs are some of the major elements of this prevention framework. Active involvement of community health organizations is necessary to ensure the success of this program and to improve the overall health of the community thereby.

References
  • Han, J. C., Lawlor, D. A. & Kimm, S. Y. S. (2010). Childhood obesity. American Medical Network. Retrieved from http://www.health.am/weightloss/childhood-obesity/
  • Korbe, T. (2012). Democratic congressman: The federal government has to fight childhood obesity for the budget. Hotair, March 21. Retrieved from http://hotair.com/archives/2012/03/21/democratic-congressman-the-federal-government-has-to-fight-childhood-obesity-for-the-budget/
  • Lacey, H. (2010). Research confirms obesity is now leading cause of preventable death in U.S. examiner.com. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/research-confirms-obesity-is-now-leading-cause-of-preventable-death-u-s
  • Minelli, J. J., & Breckon, D. (2009). Community health education: Settings, roles, and skills. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  • Saying No to Fattening Foods (What’s Harder #1). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VX0Wz59YcDY&feature=related
  • Stellefson, M & Eddy, J. M. (2008). Health education and marketing processes: 2 related methods for achieving health behavior change. Am J Health Behav, 32 (5): 488-496.
  • Saying No to Afternoon Sweets (What’s Harder #2). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7kXj-p1okQ&NR=1&feature=endscreen