Public Awareness and Human Diseases: Obesity

Introduction

Obesity is defined as an increase in the fat content of the body (“MayoClinic”). In general, fat is important in the human body since it is vital in the storage of energy and in insulating the body (“MayoClinic”). However, although the body can carry a considerable amount of fat, too much fat in the body is a health risk, which makes obesity more than a beauty concern. Many definitions of obesity have been based on measurements of weight, height, and other physical attributes such as waist circumference and skinfold (Kuller, 1999).

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According to Kuller (1999), the average fat content in the bodies of men is in the range of 15 to 20 percent, while women have a slightly higher fat content at 25 to 30 percent. However, the body fat content in both men and women increases with age, thus the need for concern. Furthermore, some studies have linked the increase in fat content to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The MayoClinic website gives details of the risks associated with obesity such as high chances of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and a plethora of other health complications. Obesity varies about age and sex among other factors (Ogden et al, 2007).

Many myths about obesity have caused an increase in complications since many victims end up not taking measures to reverse the disease (Ogden et al, 2007). In the United States, cases of obesity have increased remarkably since 1980. Between 2003 and 2004, 32.9 percent of adults in the age bracket of 20 to 74 years were reported to be obese. In addition, more than 17 percent of teenagers were overweight during the same period. But on a global scale, a nine percent increase was reported in England between 1993 and 2002, and China experienced an 11.1 percent increase between 1989 and 1997 (Ogden et al, 2007).

Epidemiology of obesity

According to Hu (2008), the primary cause of obesity is that energy intake by the body exceeds the body’s utilization of the energy. Nonetheless, the regulation of the body weight and deposits of adipose tissues are complex processes that involve genetic, behavioral, endocrine, psychosocial, and environmental factors (Hu, 2008). These factors affect the rate at which fat is deposited in the body, hence the possibility of an individual becoming obese. The human body can break down protein, carbohydrates, and fat to achieve its energy needs. Fat, which is the principal form of storage of energy, can be stored in considerably large amounts (Ogden et al, 2007). The aforementioned factors affect the amount of fat stored, hence the chances of being obese.

The main aim of researching obesity is to prevent the condition or otherwise provide treatment to those who suffer from the condition. The research on obesity includes intervention in dietary strategies and lifestyles of individuals and modification programs such as weight loss and surgical approaches. However, despite the interventions to prevent obesity, sound practices are yet to be identified and employed on a wide scale. In short, cases of obesity are on the rise in industrialized countries such as the United States as well as other developing nations (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007). This calls for further intervention and research to obtain sufficient therapy or techniques to curb obesity. Review of a current program within a K-12 School that enlightens people about obesity: the “School Salad Days”.

The “School Salad Days” is a program funded by the Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI), which was unveiled in 2006 (“BNET”). The school salad days program is meant to promote healthy habits by encouraging people to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables while reducing the consumption of fat. The program was initially based in California but has spread to other parts of the United States. The program was launched with the donation of 50 fully functioning service bars in K-12 schools in California (“BNET”).

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Apart from offering onsite self-service bars, the School Salad Days program also provides schools with sufficient information about nutrition. In the program, school service food directors, healthcare providers, and nutritionists combine their skills in combating child nutrition through a commitment to better nutrition (“BNET”). The participants in the program work with schools to make fruit baskets, which are sold during fundraising activities (“BNET”). In addition, the program helps schools to develop their on-suite edible gardens, which comprise vegetables and fruits for the students and the local communities (“BNET”).

The School Salad Days program is a good gesture in helping parents and children to combat the pervasive problem of obesity. The up-to-date information given to K-12 schools through the program is vital to not only students and parents of the school but also the surrounding communities since they too have access to the information (“BNET”). By increasing access to fruits and vegetables and teaching the importance of proper nutrition, the program is just an ideal mechanism towards minimizing if not eradicating obesity in both students and their parents. The school salad day program has enabled children to avoid the diets they were initially feeding on which tended not to be healthy as they were full of cholesterol and fat (Albin, 2008). Ironically, these are the main contributors to obesity (Albin, 2008).

Proposal for an improved community-based education/awareness program to combat obesity.

Overview

Obesity is a complex disease that arises from the interplay of genetic susceptibility, increased intake of high-energy foods, and a decline in the requirement of physical activity in modern society. Perhaps the ubiquitous availability of potato chips, sugary and creamy chocolates, and many other savory delicacies coupled with the availability of machines such as computers that encourage immobility have contributed to the phenomenon.

Obesity has reached an epidemic level in industrialized countries and is now labeled the leading cause of preventable death in the United States (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007). Gumbiner (2001) described it as a grave public health predicament in the United States and many countries of the world. The prevalence of obesity in the United States has notably increased among children and adults in the past three decades. According to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) of 2001, 32 percent of Americans were overweight, (Gumbiner, 2001). A 2004 research showed that the figure stood at 34 percent (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007).

Being overweight and being obese are slightly different phenomena. Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock (2007) differentiated the percentage of overweight people (those whose Body Mass Index [BMI] is between 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2) to be 34 percent whereas as the obese (those whose BMI is greater than 30 kg/m2) accounted for 30 percent of the population United States population in 2004.

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Most affected groups

The prevalence of obesity is high in minority populations especially among the non-Hispanic black women in the United States. Obesity is also prevalent among children as Sadock; Kaplan & Sadock (2007) reported that the magnitude of affected children rose steadily from 15 percent to 18 percent between 2000 and 2004. The disease can therefore be said to be prevalent among adults and children but is also noted across all age groups (Ogden et al, 2007). Children are affected by obesity due to the food they fatty foods they are fed inactivity while adults are more prone to eschewing exercise (Ogden et al, 2007).

Current education program for obesity

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched the Obesity Education Initiative (OEI) in 1991. The main objective of OEI is to promote the adoption of healthy eating trends and physical exercise. OEI encourages the incorporation of physical activities in leisure functions and the intake of food that is proportionally balanced for the sake of healthy bodies.

Causes of and effects of obesity

As earlier mentioned, obesity is caused by a high intake of high-energy foods without concomitant physically demanding exercises which leads to excess storage of fat in the body (Hu, 2008). Obesity affects many parts of the body but those most affected are regions around the abdomen. Obesity patients are characterized by distended bellies, swollen abdomen, and loose skin in the hip region (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007). In women, breasts overgrow whereas men appear to have developed breasts (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007). Internally organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys appear to be covered with fats (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadock, 2007). This hinders processes such as pumping and circulation of blood, osmoregulation, and digestion. Blood circulation is further affected by the clogging of veins and arteries and may result in high blood pressure (“webMD”).

Risk factors: those that can be controlled and those that cannot

The risk factors for obesity include a poor diet, eating during stressful times, fashion diets, and heredity. Risks associated with eating habits can be avoided by proper planning and intake of food. Cholesterol, which accelerates obesity, can be avoided by avoiding foods that contain it.

Other factors such as heredity are beyond control. The presence of other complications such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes too can increase obesity. Nevertheless, these conditions can be reversed in their early stages since checking obesity is a concern.

Evolution of treatment for obesity

BMI assessment has been the most common way of ascertaining obesity. The results of BMI are compared to height to make conclusions (Mulvihill et al, 2005). Over time, surgery has been used to treat cases of extreme obesity. However, the most common treatment has been prevention or intervention at early stages by providing a good diet and encouraging exercise (Gumbiner, 2001). Earlier methods of treatment involved the use of drugs such as dinitrophenol in 1920 and amphetamine in 1937. However, the use of these drugs was stopped due to serious side effects (Gumbiner, 2001).

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Current treatment methods

Current methods of treatment are mostly nutrient-related and clinicians have a role in educating patients on the need for exercise and balanced diets with less fat or energy-containing components (Gumbiner, 2001).

Future treatment options

It is projected that future treatment options will mainly focus on diet advertise and exercise since the main cause of obesity is food (Hu, 2008). Doctors will also have to advise patients on the need for stress management to avoid hypertension and other complications such as stroke (Mulvihill et al, 2005).

Effectiveness of Obesity Education Initiative (OEI)

The OEI has implemented a two-fold plan for educating professionals and the populace on the relationship of overweight and physical sluggishness to cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2007). This strategy is both a high-risk strategy and a population-based strategy. Both strategies have been embraced towards curbing obesity. (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2007). However, obesity is still persistent among the United States population. Information is delivered by advertisement on posters and billboards but this makes it difficult to reach the exact populations affected by obesity.

While the information passed to the people is useful, there is a problem with how to ensure that it effectively reaches the intended people. Its inefficiency is that is done as a form of general awareness and not an objective approach. To improve information delivery, methods such as the use of booklets, advertisements on radio, and popular websites have to be used. In addition, there is a need for a participatory approach that will invite a balanced perception of the public and not one that will alienate obesity victims.

A new way to reach greater numbers of the target population

A new approach in spreading anti-obesity messages should involve everyone. Right from the school, there is a need to inform children on the importance of exercise and activities such as walking or riding to school instead of boarding cars or buses. Some days of the week can be set to award those who come to school early without boarding vehicles. In addition, sports events can be held where children learn from each other. This is a solid way to reach the young population.

For youths and adults, the need for exercise should be emphasized at the workplace. For instance, employers should be encouraged to prepare dietary meals for their employees instead of allowing them to eat any kind of food while they are at work. At home, TV commercials with advice on obesity should be aired during peak watching moments such as news hour or in between a game.

All forms of media can be used but a participatory approach is more specific. “Obesity-free” walks can be held in cities in which former and current obesity patients can be given time to address the people. Such talks would cultivate a sense of unity among the people in combating obesity.

Conclusion

Obesity is a complicated disease but can be arrested with proper intervention. There is a need to encourage preventive measures such as proper diet, and physical exercise. There is a need for change in the way obesity is addressed to avoid alienating the victims. A more participatory approach is therefore the best in delivering information about the condition to the public.

References

Albin, A. (2008). Salad days. UCLA Magazine. Web.

BNET.2008. Dole Fights K-12 Obesity With “School Salad Days.” Web.

Gumbiner, B. (2001). Obesity. New York: ACP Press.

Hu, F. (2008). Obesity epidemiology: Methods and applications. New York: Oxford University Press US.

Kuller, L.H. (1999). “The epidemiology of obesity in adults in relationship to cardiovascular disease”, in Fletcher G. F., Grundy,.S. M. Hayman, L. L Obesity: Impact on cardiovascular disease. New York: Blackwell Publishing.

(2007). Obesity. Web.

Mulvihill, M. L.; Zelman, M.; Tompary, E; Holdaway P.; & Raymond, J. (2005). Human diseases: A systemic approach. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2007). Obesity Education Initiative. Web.

Ogden C L.; Yanovski, S Z.; Carroll M D.,& Flegal K M. (2007). The epidemiology of obesity. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland; and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Web.

Sadock, B. J.. Kaplan, H I & Sadock, V A.( 2007). Kaplan & Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Web.

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