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Helping Communities Handle Obesity by Sydney Johnson

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The United States faces the challenge of addressing the obesity epidemic which is currently affecting children, adolescents, and adults of all ethnicities.  Most high-risk populations include African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians.  The statistical facts state that families in low socioeconomic statuses suffer high-risk factors related to chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea; these are all a result of obesity.

We are faced with an economic catastrophe.  Medical-related costs for the treatment of obesity can be complicated to predict because of the unreported cases.  However, it is estimated that insurance costs in 2006 were about 147 billion dollars for the treatment of obesity and related chronic illness.   The prediction for 2030 is that there will be about 48 to 60 billion dollars a year in insurance costs in America if obesity is not monitored closely.

This also brings us to a higher mortality rate caused by preventable illnesses.   The lack of education and access to proper healthcare in high-risk communities increases high death rates. Most families with environmental and behavioral risk factors usually stem from an economic and social disadvantage.  Effective obesity treatment is difficult to implement and places a strain on our society, because it is not cost-effective to develop prevention programs that would help them access treatment and services.

Families today demonstrate either both parents working or one parent in the home and not having the time to prepare healthy meals. Children are also left home alone more often which leaves room for developing a sedentary lifestyle.  Inadequate physical activity, unhealthy eating behaviors, and other health risk behaviors affect the physical and social well-being of high-risk youth.  The socioeconomics and norms that exist amongst high-risk populations have to be examined with scientific studies for a more comfortable and sustainable preventative treatment.   Economic disparity has a large influence on the preventive outcome. This only exposes how public policies and environmental change must take place within our government and sheds light on the importance of making obesity prevention a national priority.

National legislative studies are being created to ensure that states recognize the different policy options that will address specific diseases concerning obesity.  Legislators reviewed several policy approaches by moving towards a healthier diet and active lifestyle starting as early as childhood.  If our nation allows childhood obesity to become a global epidemic, that child’s life expectancy is only 55-57 years of age.  Looking at it closer most adults that are not obese will live longer than their children if they are obese.

The bottom line is to improve the health of young people and their families by engaging in discussions and strategic partnerships to address a critical community issue, obesity.   To meet the needs of the community it would require cooperation among many organizations and professionals to find or create innovative obesity prevention programs.

One of the most effective ways to combat obesity would be to start with fitness and nutritional after-school programs.   Most children are registered students at some educational institution and they are required by law to be tested through their Body Mass Index (BMI), which is used to estimate human body fat.  They use a BMI chart to calculate how many children are overweight or obese according to age, height, and weight.  This will allow more children to be tested early and if diagnosed they will be provided effective treatment by showing participants and their families how to reverse the effects of obesity.  By developing more community fitness and nutritional programs, we can educate families on how to find the resources and tools they need to develop long-term interventions.

Ultimately the responsibility is up to every individual being accountable for his or her family’s health and wellness.   The government has to enforce policies that are directly related to equal opportunity for all mankind.   Because low socioeconomics is one of the causes that affect our families and their environment we must strive to become more educated on how to build a healthier society.


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