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Further, Robinson and Sirard posit that applying a "Litmus Test" helps to identify the specific research questions, study designs, and methods that will most likely contribute to improving individual and overall population health (198). The researchers suggest that a study should only be performed if the researcher(s) knows what the conclusion from each possible result (negative, null, positive) will be, and how the result will incline intervention to address policy, clinical or a public health problem like childhood obesity. If research is conducted as suggested, the authors maintain that studies with a greater possibility of advancing science and directly, not suggestively, improving well being and health, would be the result. Therefore, greater assurance that will be provided that ethical responsibilities of not devaluing the contributions of research participants, and responsibly responding to the need for useful research to the public, particularly if public funds are used for the project, will be adequately met.
Hood, in his article, "Sharing Solutions for Childhood Obesity" took a critical look at Shaping America's Youth (SAY), a public-private partnership program that has established a national registry of initiatives for increased physical activity and nutrition with youth and has shown significant improvement in the health and nutrition of the children the program has worked with. The mission of SAY is to foster dialogue at the community level, and ultimately develop a call to action on a national level to combat childhood obesity. Hood notes the historical problems of efforts regarding remediating childhood obesity not being organized, failing to target the right age group, and not being sustained to garner any meaningful results. The focus of SAY, however, is to "get to common goals, common language, and common standards that are modified community by community, and for each family, but getting to the fundamental message is necessary" (p., 521).
While the author acknowledges that the socioeconomic environment is a major contributing factor in the childhood obesity epidemic, he cites that as a paramount reason for getting involved on the individual family, individual community level. Instead of having scholars and experts articulate the problems that foster childhood obesity, those most significantly impacted would have a voice in determining causal factors, and more importantly what they perceive viable solutions to be.
At present, SAY uses geographic system mapping to delineate the current distribution of childhood obesity, lower socioeconomic status, and minimal access to healthy food choices as the primary methodology to elicit associations at the local level to combat the problem. Hood acknowledges that reversing the current trajectory of childhood obesity will require long-term commitments and efforts on the part of all involved, he expresses optimism that if certain aspects of the environment can be strategically and successfully modified, the epidemic of childhood obesity can be significantly reduced if not eliminated within the next decade (p., 523).
Lotz, in her article "Childhood Obesity and the Question of Parental Liberty" suggests that the issue of childhood obesity is a moral one; and due to the reluctance of many to engage in the moral debate because of the prevailing commitment to the current concept of the family and rights to autonomy and privacy of parental control, childhood obesity will continue to manifest at epidemic rates (p. 289). She acknowledges the argument many have that if childhood obesity is indeed a moral issue, and falls within the domain of private parental decision making, then the state has no legitimate say. However, Lotz maintains that regarding the "appropriate stance to take in respect to childhood obesity" the value of parental liberty, family privacy, and freedom from state interference must be critically examined if there is to be a viable solution to childhood obesity.
Lotz offers as a solution the imparting of knowledge to parents as to the indirect and direct harm of childhood obesity; as she maintains parental liberty, to a great extent is based on parental ignorance as to the dangers of the condition. Further, parents must be supported in instituting an anti-obesity program to reverse the current patterns of their children's food intake, nutritional level, and involvement in physical activity. Support from parents is relatively encompassing and includes addressing issues such as long work hours of parents, isolation from the community, and extended family networks that have all been identified as areas of concern and a potentiating factor in childhood obesity.
Although all of the solutions offered have empirical and clinical research to support that positions, what is most striking between them is the fact that all suggest, to one degree or another, that childhood obesity cannot be successfully addressed from the macro level, but requires a much more micro level approach in order to be successful. All of the arguments are meritorious, and all of the arguments have some weaknesses or areas that could be finer tuned. However, the notion of involving the children and family at the base level, as posited by Robinson and Sirard; focusing on solution-based paradigms vs. problem based ones, seems to have more merit than the others. If the way in which the issue is viewed changes from simply identifying the problem and then placing everything within the contextual framework of the problem and moving toward research that is solution focused, then greater strides can be made in developing programming and even ideology that will be more impactful in addressing childhood obesity.
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