The Issue of Child Obesity in Georgia

Introduction

Obesity is a serious medical condition that is signified by excessive body fat. Obesity affects all classes of people at any age, but studies show that children and adolescents are more affected by the condition (Porcellato, 2009). Many parents do not recognize whether their children are obese; instead, they tend to claim that their children are only healthy. Obesity was rare in the past, but it is among the most prevalent medical problems affecting children and adolescents today. It is not easy to say a person is obese directly, as some people are just plump. Therefore, obesity is measured by BMI (Body Mass Index) that compares height and weight, and only classifies a child as being obese when the BMI becomes equal to or more than the 95th percentile (Garrow, 2000).

Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds a child gain start to act as a precursor to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases when the child becomes an adult. In addition, obesity does not only affect the physical health of a child but also the self-esteem and mental health (Porcellato, 2009). A strong prevention tool comprising of diverse members of the community who have relevant skills and knowledge can contribute greatly to protecting children from obesity in the State of Georgia.

Discussion

Epidemiology and Health Significance on Child Obesity

Obese children have become too common in our society today. This has been attributed to routine consumption of unhealthy foods, which contain too much sugar and/or fat content, preceded by a general lack of physical exercise (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002). A big proportion of overweight children are nowadays at risk of being attacked by illnesses that are commonly associated with adults, as they have high levels of cholesterol. In the state of Georgia, there has been an increase in the rate of obesity despite the efforts put forth to control the prevalence. In 2008, 18.8% of children who are of the age of 6 to 11 years were classified as obese children after being examined by the body mass index, commonly known as the BMI. Statistics show that children who live in Georgia State are more at risk of becoming obese as compared to other children living in the other states of the U.S. (Georgia Department of Community Health, 2010).

More so, research carried out in Georgia shows that 10% of deaths per year are attributed to obese related diseases, with adolescents and children being infected with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, early maturation, and asthma, among others (Georgia Department of Community Health, 2010). Besides, an obese child has a higher risk of developing “adult ailments” such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular, type 1 diabetes, and heart disease, among other obese-related diseases. This is since the rate of being infected with obese-related diseases increases as the child advances to the adolescent stage, and finally to adulthood. Besides being vulnerable to obese related diseases, an obese child also suffers from an emotional problem as he/she seeks to be accepted in society (Porcellato, 2009). Thus, most obese children demonstrate low self-esteem, depression, isolation, and blame their physical appearance.

A research study carried out by university students and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) indicates that there is a distinct relationship between childhood obesity and adult ailment diseases. The study illustrates that the higher the child’s body mass index (BMI), the greater the risk of contracting heart-related diseases. The study indicates a linear and progressive correlation between excessive body weight in children and risky heart problems later on in life (Franks et al., 2010). The study did not find evidence related to the safety factors as the obese child grew up, but instead found out the potential risk that rises as the child grows older without having his/her weight is checked. This shows that obesity in the childhood stage plays the role of increasing the morbidity and mortality rate in Georgia, and consequently the productivity of the State. About the obtained statistical data on child obesity, it is paramount to investigate why there is a high prevalence rate of child obesity in the State of Georgia.

Factors Contributing To High Prevalence Rate of Child Obese In Georgia

Assessing the factors that contribute to a high prevalence rate of children obese in Georgia State prompts us to one key question: What is the relationship between lifestyle and obesity? Lifestyle incorporates three influences: economic, people’s way of life, and social influences.

An economic influence examines the correlation between obesity and prices of food and fast foods, availability, and accessibility of local area food stores, fast food restaurant density, and household income. The way of life influences focuses on the food consumed, exercises, sedentary behaviors such as TV watching as well as attitude towards food and health. Social influences explore the relationship between childhood obesity and the position that the communities take on obese children.

The economic influence on obesity explores the dietary behavior in the state of Georgia. It has been observed that children living in the state of Georgia do not practice healthy eating, as the children have easy access to fast foods (Uauy et al., 2008). Fast foods are convenient, quick, and usually inexpensive. There is a strong link between fast foods proximity and obesity. Schoolchildren are more likely to be obese if there is a fast-food restaurant near the school since they are likely to consume more calories per day, as it is in the case of Georgia State. Studies show that only a very small percentage of children from the minority can provide their children with the recommended fruits and vegetable intake per day (Kim & Blanck, 2011). Thus, the level of income directly affects the children’s weight, as the poor have to consume food with too many calories.

Sirard & Slater (2008) affirms that lack of exercise and sedentary activities is another factor that has contributed greatly to a high prevalence rate of obesity in the state of Georgia. It has been observed that children in the past used to walk or even cycle as they headed to school, a routine that has changed as we approached 2010. Lack of exercise has serious health implications because it leads to the retention of body fat. Exercises that involve the use of legs are the most effective means of reducing body fat. Consumption of fatty foods and lack of exercise largely contribute to obesity in children. The presence of lifts in the recent past has discouraged the use of stairs, which is also an effective way to exercise. Children living in Georgia as well as the rest of the country nowadays avoid using the stairs since they consider lifts efficient and convenient.

Inactive activities such as TV watching or playing video games play a critical role in increasing the obesity prevalence rate in Georgia. This is due to a reduction in work that is less demanding physically. It has been observed that over half of the children population in Georgia spends more than three hours in front of the televisions (Uauy et al., 2008). There is a close link between television watching time and the risk of being obese. Children who spend most of their time watching TV are more likely to become obese than those who spend less time doing the same. There is a correlation between media exposure and childhood obesity in Georgia.

Has Georgia Met Healthy People 2010 Goals?

The objective of Healthy People 2010 in Georgia is to identify the population that is at risk of obesity, identify the risk factors, identify the causes of obesity, and state the known preventive measures, among other objectives. With the already stated increase rate in obesity among children, Healthy People 2010 has not met the goal of eradicating obesity within children. This is portrayed by the fact that the obesity prevalence rate continued to rise as we approached 2010. However, the high rate of obese cases is mainly common in children from minority ethnic groups, as they are the low-income earners (Georgia Department of Community Health, 2010).

This economic factor influences negatively the lifestyle of the children from the minority since their parents are not able to maintain the park and recreation avenues to work as substitutes for the video games. These avenues are difficult to maintain since they deal with contaminated land that calls for significant clean-up. More so, the minority group in Georgia state experience a disparity from the state laws, as the Georgia State has whites who are high-income earners, and hence they do not need to take their children to public parks for recreation purposes since they attempt to maintain control of their children’s health by providing them with a healthy diet. The Georgia state also does not find any interest in investing for the low-income earners and therefore does not give the public recreation parks and avenues a priority (International Monetary Fund, 2003). As a result, Healthy People 2010 has not been able to meet its goal of reducing obesity among the children living in Georgia, as it has not been able to encourage collaboration between the rich and the poor.

The Healthy People 2010 should have considered mobilization of the diverse ethnic/cultural groups in Georgia as an effective strategy of curbing the obesity prevalence rate in children. Through this consideration, Healthy people 2010 should collect data concerning child obesity, and then come up with a viable method of eradicating the menace. The Healthy People 2010 can achieve this by separating the child obese records of one community from the records of others within the Georgia State. Reducing the prevalence rate can then be emphasized through creating collaboration between members of a given community. This can be achieved by the formation of coalitions within the members of a community, starting with the communities that are small and are not ethnically diverse. This strategy is effective since the small communities that have low levels of ethnic/cultural diversity tend to have a quick response in matters concerning collaboration. This, in turn, will increase the chances of interest for the other communities in Georgia, and this will make them change their behaviors or the environment in which child obesity takes place (Latner & Wilson, 2007)

Role of Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can play a critical role in curbing the rate of obesity in children living in the state of Georgia. This can be achieved through the implementation of short-term as well as long-term goals. In the short-term goals, the nurse practitioners are supposed to take initiative in the identification of the children who have health risks associated with obesity. Besides, identification of health risks through the BMI, the nurse has a role in identifying the root cause of the obesity by collecting information relative to family history (Walsh & Crumbie, 2007).

In the long-term goals, the nurse practitioners have the role of decreasing the prevalence rate of obese children in the state of Georgia. This goal is aimed at meeting the Healthy People 2010 objective. However, this goal can only be achieved if the nurses bridge the communication gap between diverse health care settings. Bridging of his gap can be facilitated by the proper transition of records, which serve as transfers call for clear information of medical history that will help the patient to receive a further diagnosis. This, in turn, will assist the achievement of Healthy People 2010 goals since diverse ways of eliminating child obesity will have been sought after.

Besides effective communication, the nutrition specialist nurse has the responsibility of engaging in community children’s obese programs since they have the capacity of educating on a healthy diet, teaching parents on the significance of feeding their children with a healthy diet and help in evaluating ways of changing the eating habits (New et al., 2003). This is a critical role in enabling Healthy People 2010 to achieve its goals because it serves as a base for sound health decisions.

Conclusion

Obesity and obesity-related diseases affect all people of all ages, including children. There is a common belief that obese adults were once obese children; hence, this necessitates the need to take care of a child’s weight. However, statistics show that a big number of people do not know how to fight and prevent obesity, and there is a greater likelihood that if a child is obese, he/she might fight with it through to adulthood. This has been evidenced despite the presence of Healthy People 2010, which aims at providing informed decisions on matters about health.

However, the Healthy People 2010 objective in reducing childhood obesity in the State of Georgia has been a failure due to several factors including varying levels of economic conditions, people’s way of life, and social influences. For the Healthy People 2010 to make a successful move, it must establish ways that foster social cohesion between the members of the community, and, at the same time, involve the nurse practitioners in community programs, as they contribute greatly towards data collection and information on the risk factors of childhood obesity.

References

Fairburn, C. G., & Brownell, K. D. (2002). Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook. New York: Guilford Press.

Franks, P. W., Hanson, R. L., Knowler, W. C., Sievers, M. L., Bennett, P. H., and Looker, H. C. (2010). Childhood Obesity, Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors, and Premature Death. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(6), 485 – 493.

Garrow J. (2000). Composition of the body. Human nutrition and dietetics. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Georgia Department of Community Health. (2010). Healthy Behaviors in Georgia Vs.Year 2010 objectives. Web.

International Monetary Fund. (2003). Georgia: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Washington, DC: International monetary fund (IMF).

Kim, S. A., & Blanck, H. M. (January 01, 2011). State Legislative Efforts to Support Fruit and Vegetable Access, Affordability, and Availability, 2001 to 2009: A Systematic Examination of Policies. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 6 (1), 99-113.

Latner, J. D., & Wilson, G. T. (2007). Self-help approaches for obesity and eating disorders: Research and practice. New York: Guilford Press.

New, J. P., Mason, J. M., Freemantle, N., Teasdale, S., Wong, L. M., Bruce, N. J., Burns, J. A.,… Gibson, J. M. (January 01, 2003). Clinical Care/Education/Nutrition – Specialist nurse-led intervention to treat and control hypertension and hyperlipidemia in diabetes (SPLINT): A randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care, 26 (8), 2250.

Porcellato, E. S. (2009). The weight of responsibility: Childhood obesity, children’s rights, and the best-interest standard. Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada.

Sirard, J., & Slater, M. (January 01, 2008). Walking and Bicycling to School: A Review. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2(5), 372-396.

Uauy, R., Kain, J., Mericq, V., Rojas, J., & Corvalán, C. (January 01, 2008). Nutrition, child growth, and chronic disease prevention. Annals of Medicine, 40 (1), 11-20.

Walsh, M., & Crumbie, A. (2007). Watson’s Clinical Nursing and Related Sciences. Kidlington: Elsevier Health Sciences.

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