Public Health Challenges: Obesity

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Public health is a dynamic field of medicine that has its primary concern on improving the health of people. By definition, public health is the art and science employed in promoting physical health conditions, extending life, and preventing disease through efficient control and organization of communities by encouraging sanitized environmental surroundings. Nevertheless, there are several challenges facing public health in the United States. According to Center for Disease control and prevention (CDC), the leading health issues were; Alcohol abuse, Healthcare-associated infections, heart diseases and stroke, HIV &AIDS, motor vehicle accidents, mental and psychological diseases, poor nutrition, lack of regular and routine exercise, obesity, drug overdose, early pregnancies, and tobacco use. Having considered all the public health nuisance, obesity is major area of concern and apprehension. Obesity is a medical condition that shows itself when an individual is physically seen carrying a lot of weight or bodyweight that might constrain the health condition of people. However, obesity is a more than a physical illness, it is a lifestyle disease.

Obesity is not just a cosmetic concern but a medical condition that predisposes individuals to various dangerous diseases like; diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease; since the arteries become narrowed from accumulated fat increases the risk of heart failure. Nonetheless, obesity could be caused by lifestyle, metabolic and hormonal stimuli, and genetic interpretations (Kayt Sukel, 2018). Obesity derives from when an individual consumes more than the body can burn through exercise and regular daily routine. In the US, people are inclined to have diets that has excess calories. The type of food available shapes the diets of Americans (Larson, 2009). Thus, the diets mostly consist of fast foods and sugary beverages. Additionally, obese individuals are likely to partake in stress eating to relieve the mental toll on their bodies.

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According to a study conducted by scientists in 2013, the study revealed that obesity accounts for 18% of mortality rates among adults in the United States from 1986 to 2006 (Laidman). Therefore, obesity is an urgent public health threat considered more precarious than the opioid epidemic. Obesity is killing people at nearly the same rate as tobacco since smoking is approximated to kill one of 5 American citizens (DHHS, 2014). Although the obesity crisis may be less apparent compared to the other epidemics, it has resulted in 40,000 deaths annually (David Blumenthal, M.D. and Shanoor Seervai, 2018). Undoubtedly, obesity affects all Americans but people of color are impacted more as African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to be obese than their white counterparts (Ogden, 2014).

Obesity as a challenge to public health has attracted the interests of so many stakeholders with the primary concern of countering the disease menace. The chief of epidemiology, Mercedes Carnethon, reacted to the frequently asked question: what is the prime threat to the health of a nation? Her answer without thought was obesity (2019). She asserts that the obesity crisis is on-going battle between the individual, the food industry and government. Carnethon suggests that to logically control the rate of obesity, the first line of defence is to change individual behavior for the benefit of a healthy lifestyle. However, behavioral changes do not prove useful when structural and social barriers are influencing it as the food industry utilizes the lenient restrictions placed by the government to maximize profits. These obstacles are more commonly experienced by ethnic minorities and penurious adults who are at the risk of being obese because their food resources are extremely limited (Story, 2008). Obesity is also responsible for disseminating disparities in numerous chronic infections such as diabetes and heart diseases hence the importance of educators is vital. Specifically, elementary and middle school administrations must remain engaged with the topic of obesity and its ramifications. While, at the federal and state level, health regulations need be accelerated such as imposing a tax rate on beverages, snacks, and sugar-sweetened beverages. This policy will encourage a healthy consumption of food while taxing corporations for any unhealthy ingredients they choose to use.

The tax ban on sugary foods works in the following way; an individual will have to consider whether he/she should spend double the price for a two-litter bottle of soda or juice or buy a healthy drink at a subsidized rate. In this way, positive health behaviors will be encouraged as people will need to find alternative food solutions for their needs. Moreover, the funds acquired through the taxing can be used to fund health related programs, whether it’s physical health education or mental health education. The obese population will need different forms of health-related service and the money obtained through the sugar tax can facilitate those programs. In a nutshell, taxation will reduce the obesity crisis in America especially early childhood obesity as kids won’t be as likely to be addicted to sugary products and won’t become victims to corporations taking advantage of them by promoting their unhealthy, sugary products.

An ecological perspective on health is a concept derived from the science of ecology, defined as the study of living and non-living organisms and how they interact with the environment (Amanda Petrona, 2018). The study was enforced by Care Germain in 1973 to explain the relationship and interactions between people and groups within a specific social and cultural setup.

Individual behavior change and biological approaches have since traditionally been the focus of intervention to address weight. However, socio-economic and physical factors in the surrounding can either support or discourage unhealthy eating behavior. Ecological approaches shift the focus from the individual to the environment, aiming to make accessibility of healthy food to everyone. The availability of healthier food options need to be as prominent as the fast food restaurants. Nonetheless, physical environment level and the policy levels are in crucial need of changing drastically as they are the ones contributing the most to obesity. The lack of actions from the FDA has increased and facilitated companies by allowing them to promote unhealthy supplement and other products (Richards, 2006). The inability of the FDA to regulate unhealthy product has led to an abundance of fast food restaurants in all communities but especially in communities of color. The ecological perspectives that must be addressed are summed up in the psychological, social, policies levels. Only by implementing change at these levels will we see a shift in the obesity crisis.

It is imperative to consider the problem of obesity since the disease is associated with countless other risky diseases and death can be the subsequent consequence. As a result, there is not a single cause of overweight and obesity. The disease is caused by multiple disorders. In the human body, excess energy is stored as fat in the adipose tissue. Furthermore, obesity has health and societal implications. Not to mention the expensive cost of healthcare. Negative health consequences include; mortality, hypertension, heart diseases, breathing problems, mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and difficulty in physical functioning. Also, obesity has a significant economic influence on Americans as well. Increased medical costs such as preventive measures, diagnosis, physical/mental health classes, and impacts the individual and their family negatively at large since the cash that could have been used in a more substantive way has to now be used to treat ailments. The future generations are enduring the consequences as today kids are 3 times more likely to be obese compared to 1970s (DHHS, 2017). Fundamentally, if the problems are not addressed, there would be high rise in child and adult mortality.

The most preferable national agency that would properly address that problem of obesity and conclusively solve the problem is CDC. CDC is the choice since they are mandated to protect America from safety, health and security threats. CDC increases the health security and status of the Americans, as a result, saving many lives and households from further attacks and chronic infections (CDC, 2019). To accomplish their obligation, CDC’s investment in research and science around obesity must increase as the obesity crisis is reaching historically high rates as the prevalence rate in the US is up to 40% (CDC, 2018). Hence, drastic measures are critically necessary and only CDC has the enough power nationally to cause some major change such as advocating for a sugar tax.

Public health essentially is the science of protecting, enlightening and educating communities for safe health education policies. The definition will differ for every individual. As a public health professional, one is mandated to deliver the following to the community: monitor and identify potential problems within the community and obesity is indeed a crisis that transcends any one community as it has become too prevalent in our society. The time to reflect is over as people must understand the cause of obesity is not the lack of individual willpower or the tyranny of small decision but rather a systematic and structural flaw in the overall health system. That flaw has limited the people’s ability to choose their food sources while letting companies profit off the uncertainty of the consumers. Food manufacturers win as the blame for obesity is always associated with the consumer not the source hence the significance of fixing this misconception is first step in resolving this epidemic.

Refrences

  1. Larson NI , Story MT , Nelson MC . Neighborhood environments: disparities in access to healthy foods in the U.S . Am J Prev Med . 2009 ; 36 ( 1 ): 74 – 81 .
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014
  3. Ogden CL , Carroll MD , Flegal KM . Prevalence of obesity in the United States . JAMA . 2014 ; 312 ( 2 ): 189 – 90
  4. Story M , Kaphingst KM , Robinson-O’Brien R , Glanz K . Creating healthy food and eating environments: policy and environmental approaches . Annu Rev Public Health . 2008 ; 29 : 253 – 72 .
  5. Carnethon, M. (2019). The Biggest Health Problem: Obesity. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-biggest-health-problem-obesity/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].
  6. CDC (May 13, 2019). Adult Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019].
  7. Kayt Sukel. (September 24, 2018). Top Public Health Issues Impacting Healthcare Organizations. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/article/top-public-health-issues-impacting-healthcare-organizations
  8. Amanda Petrona. (2018, July 27). What Is the Ecological Perspective?. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.theclassroom.com/ecological-perspective-6638441.html
  9. David Blumenthal, M.D. and Shanoor Seervai. (April 24, 2018). Rising Obesity in the United States Is a Public Health Crisis. Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2018/rising-obesity-united-states-public-health-crisis
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Public Health Challenges: Obesity. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-health-challenges-obesity/
“Public Health Challenges: Obesity.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/public-health-challenges-obesity/
Public Health Challenges: Obesity. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-health-challenges-obesity/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Public Health Challenges: Obesity [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/public-health-challenges-obesity/
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