Obesity affects a large number of people and has negative impacts due to development of chronic diseases in the victim. In the United States, obesity is one of the contributors to health care costs that have become catastrophic and unaffordable unless being critically addressed by health care providers and government. Early prevention will help in turning the obesity epidemic around and provide ways for a health community. However, obesity prevention can be an uphill task since it involves lifestyle modification, particularly at the individual level. Concerned bodies have developed few policies that are unlikely to solve the problem. Moreover, they provide limited evidence concerning the effectiveness of the interventions in preventing diabetes. The primary purpose of the paper is to address the issue of obesity that has become a public health challenge in the nation.
Obesity and Its Prevention
The number of overweight and obese Americans has doubled since late 19th century. According to National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the numbers of adolescents aged between 12 and 19 who are obese have tripled to 15% (Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, 2012). Prevalence of overweight men increased by 13% and doubled within the category of grade 2 between 1988 and 2008. On the other hand, the prevalence of obese women rose by 10% and further increased by 7% within grade 2 category during the same period (Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, 2012). In general, there has been the steady and significant rise of obese and overweight men and women in the United States.
Women and children, especially among the African American and Hispanic populations, are at high risks of obesity. The majority of obese people mostly belong to ethnic minorities and poor population, and also has risen more in rural than urban communities (World Health Organization, 2012). Obesity is prevalent in children and women with income below the poverty level by 130% and less prevalent to those above poverty lines. Moreover, the black women have had a high prevalence of being obese in all categories of income while black men of highest categories of income are likely to be obese.
Obesity is driven by various environmental aspects which Americans live with as it shapes their food and physical activity patterns. The consumption of dietary sweeteners, food with high calories and fizzy drinks has significantly increased due to food availability and food consumption outside the home. Media use is another societal driver that has an impact on weight gaining. Children of age 8 to 18 years increased their hours of media use from 6.19 hr. /day to 7.30 hr. /day between 1999 and 2009 (Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, 2012). Moreover, the hours of television viewing, computer use, home internet access and hours of video game use have increased significantly. These drivers have led to more obese children due to limited exercise and inactivity in outdoor sporting events.
Consequences of Obesity
Obesity has both individual and societal effects. Individual effects are the most devastating as they lead to the poor quality of life, depression, discrimination, illness and possible disability. Obesity is associated with some of the major causes of disability and death in the US. Previously, the adults on developed type 2 diabetes but obese children have recently developed the same disease. The obesity is projected to lead to a future generation with a shorter lifespan than that of parents (Kumanyika, Whitt & Haire, 2014).
The impacts of obesity are more prevalent among middle aged and older adults. Obesity attracts diseases that can either lead to disability or death. Diseases caused by obesity include cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. A third of the US adults are affected by high blood pressure while heart failure and stroke affect about 38% of women and 65% of men (World Health Organization, 2012). This leads to psychosocial problems such as stigma and negative body image and in long-term results in unemployment, low physical fitness, and reduced academic performance.
Moreover, obesity has a negative impact on the economy due to economic and societal costs. Expenditures spent on health care comprises direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include preventive, treatment and diagnostic costs while mortality and morbidity are some of the indirect costs. The US spent around $200 billion between 2010 and 2015 for obesity-related illnesses which represent approximately 20% of annual health spending (Kumanyika, Whitt & Haire, 2014). This spending can hurt the economy in the society as it is likely to incur more costs on unemployment and disability benefits. Obese people can further face other challenges such as being turned down by employers or being avoided during recruitment to armed services. This ultimately leads to loss of income that subject society into poverty.
Obesity prevention is critical in creating an environment that maintains healthy weight among the population. Primary prevention is useful because it emphasizes on strategies that involve weight management through energy balance, eating and increasing physical activity among the whole population. Obesity prevention is a key factor in reducing the influx of people needing treatment because the demand for treatment can exceed its supply. The key targets for change vary from young children and adolescents to adults. For children, feeding them with a healthy diet and giving the appropriate amount of physical activity will greatly reduce chances of being obese.
Adolescents should achieve physical, developmental and psychosocial need through access to fruits and vegetables, increasing recreational facilities and changing the institutional and environmental policies to promote energy balance (Wang et al., 2015). The primary targets for change among adults are the use of walking and cycling as a means of transport to encourage physical activity at outdoors. People should avoid gradual incremental weight gain as their age increases and should maintain their waist by avoiding accumulation of fats around the abdomen. This can be aided by consuming a high-quality diet with the required level of calories. Furthermore, pregnancy weight should be maintained among pregnant women to prevent complications during birth (Wang et al., 2015).
The system approach is an important strategy because it acknowledges the complexity of obesity thus bringing new minds from a diverse discipline that may not be traditionally related to the weight gain. It is further useful because it uses current environments in depicting energy intake and capturing mechanisms aimed at creating energy imbalance. Furthermore, this approach is important in uniting key stakeholders in the development of innovative and system-oriented solutions that ensure reduction of obesity cases. Moreover, it aids in the precise determination of potential consequences of obesity and helps in implementing solutions in a strategic and organized manner (Wang et al., 2015).
Accelerating progress in obesity prevention is aimed at developing a set of proposals for prevention of obesity over the coming decade (Wang et al., 2015). It recommends potential measures of progress towards total minimization of obese individuals. It involves setting a committee that provides approaches used to formulate recommendations such as system perspective showing sets of guiding principles. Recommendations are determined through step by step approach that includes identification, organizing, reviewing and filtering of previous proposals to identify gaps. The linkages are identified among the filtered recommendations which set way for actual recommendations (Kumanyika, Whitt & Haire, 2014).
The main environments for change comprise of physical activity, food and environment, message environment, health care and work, and school environment. Physical activity involves the movement of skeletal muscles that leads to energy use thus leading to energy balance. Food and beverage environment aims at encouraging people to consume food rich in nutrients and beverages that improve their diet. Message environment aims at providing information to the population about the need to have good nutrition and the importance of physical activity while health care and work environment involve expanding the task of health care providers, employers, and insurers in obesity prevention. Lastly, the school environment targets at making schools a national primary point for obesity prevention. This can be done through teaching students the impacts of obesity and prevention measures.
The first recommendation is to encourage several stakeholders to prioritize physical activity by increasing access to locations that offer such activity. The primary strategy for the success of this recommendation is enhancing the physical environment through developing more structures for exercise and other physical activity. Secondly, decision makers should make an effort to reduce unhealthy food and beverages. This can be achieved by adopting practices that aim at reducing sugar-sweetened products. Thirdly, the US government and industries should provide information about the importance of physical activity and nutrition to the population especially those at risk of being obese. This is achieved through developing nutrition social marketing program and sustaining targeted physical activity.
Fourthly, health care providers should increase the support structure to achieve obesity reduction and better population health. This is accomplished by providing standardized care and advocate for healthy society such as routine screening of BMI. Lastly, the state with other stakeholders should make schools the best place for prevention of obesity. This can be achieved by improving quality physical education in schools by funding activities such as k-12 curriculum standards. K-12 curriculum standards involve ensuring 50% of class time is spent in intensive physical activity (Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, 2012).
Engagement and Equity
Various stakeholders have to play significant roles in developing message, physical activity, food and beverage and health care environments. Leadership should be emphasized through engaging individuals, families and the entire community at different levels of the implementation process. School communities can engage in teaching children health practices such as eating sugar-free food and drinking water rather than sweetened beverages. The community should improve the early care of obese people, and good hospitals should be constructed to provide preventive care to obese victims. Healthy food environments such as restaurants and fast food centers should provide menus that support healthy nutrition standards (Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, 2012).
Regarding equity of engagement, international bodies such as WHO and World Bank, local ministries of health and NGOs should play a huge role in obesity prevention. These stakeholders should create access to the productive and sustainable development of healthy society and should ensure the development of health programs that disseminate healthy practices. Moreover, the government should create an environment that promotes health initiatives and campaigns and also capacity building through increasing workforce and resources in hospitals. Lastly, the NGOs can advocate for acceptance of diet and physical activity as some of the critical health goals (World Health Organization, 2012).
Several approaches have been devised aiming at obesity prevention. Policy makers have emphasized on the implementation of key...
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