nutrition as a method of disease prevention, and several organizational endeavors to educate the public about the benefits of proper nutrition including the national initiative Healthy People 2010. Proper nutrition is a critical aspect of an individual's health and well being. Numerous statistics suggest that proper nutrition can improve the quality of life and life expectancy for people living in modern society. Despite this a lack of adequate information and access to nutritional resources may exist for certain populations. The focus of this research is an exploration of health initiatives and the benefits of proper nutrition for populations throughout the United States.
Proper nutrition is an essential component to one's overall health and well being. Proper nutrition can not only improve one's life expectancy, but can also help eliminate or reduce the risk for disease and lead to an overall improved quality of life. Trends suggest that more and more people living in the United States are falling victim to chronic diseases that may be improved or prevented in part via proper nutrition. This paper will discuss the health benefits of proper nutrition, current statistics and trends as well as the importance of health initiatives geared toward proper nutrition for the general public.
There are many factors that can influence one's access to proper nutrition and education regarding proper nutrition. Studies suggest that poverty is a closely related theme to nutrition, and that many of the elementary aspects of being poor including inadequate health care and unhygienic living conditions may impair an individual's ability to maintain a proper nutrition status (Osmani, 1992). This notion is further supported by national studies of health trends which indicate that individuals living in areas with lower socio-economic status tend to have much poorer nutritional outcomes than those living in better areas (CDC, 2003).
In addition statistics suggest that minorities and people with lower socio-economic status generally have lower access to proper education regarding nutrition and proper access to health care which can exacerbate the problem of poor nutrition and chronic malnutrition (Osmani, 1992; CDC. 2003). Studies suggest that the process of malnutrition often comes to afflict individuals living in communities, a fact evidenced by trends analysis of the nutrition levels of major metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas (CDC, 2003; Osmani, 1992).
There are also an abundance of studies that suggest that aspects of food, eating and nutrition are directly related to social problems (Maurer & Sobal, 1995). Quality of food may be another problematic issue, as well as environmental factors and social qualities that impact the meaning of food for varying cultures (Maurer & Sobal, 1995). Fundamental social problems that need to be addressed including getting enough of the right kinds of food, understanding the role food plays in health and getting the best quality food (Maurer & Sobal, 1995).
A growing number of research studies suggest that most people young and old are not getting enough exercise and proper nutrition; further recent investigations suggest that the negative effects of poor nutrition can be devastating and include increased mortality and a lower quality of life (Akande, Osagie & Wyk, 2000). Evidence of poor nutrition is evident in American classrooms if no where else, where children are more and more turning to fast food as the primary means of nutrition and students are getting less and less physical activity, leading to problems including obesity (Akande et. al, 2000).
There is an increasingly prevalence of morbid diseases throughout the world including ischaemic heart disease, coronary disease, obesity, depression, diabetes and hypertension among other things, all of which can be addressed and possible prevented with better nutrition (Akande et. al, 2000). Research supports the notion that nutrition may even enhance the treatment outcome for patients undergoing severe disorders (Akande et. al, 2000). Proper nutrition can also serve to motivate and have a positive effect on children in the classroom, a trend that tends to follow children into their adult lives.
Proper nutrition is an integral part of ones overall health and well being and contributes to physical fitness and mental well being. Among the important elements of nutrition to discuss include avoiding junk food and avoiding excess weight, as well as reducing the amount of fat in the diet (Akande, et. al., 2000). Research has shown that regardless of ones genetic tendencies proper nutrition and maintenance of a healthy weight can extend ones life expectancy and lower morbidity rates (Akande, et. al, 2000). Reduction in alcohol intake and consumption of proper vitamins and minerals are also an important aspect of nutrition, possibly leading to improved immune functioning and well being (Akande, et. al, 2000).
An adequate supply and balance of macro and micro nutrients is essential to quality of life. Research suggests that more than 34% of Americans are overweight and 53 million or more are obsess due to poor nutrition (Romwell, 1998; CDC, 2003). The trend will likely continue unless education and a commitment to health and proper nutrition are established among populations young and old.
Education and Initiatives
There are numerous initiatives nationally and locally that are targeting populations at risk and attempting to increase the knowledge that currently exists regarding proper nutrition and the benefits of a healthy life style. "Healthy People 2010" is in fact a national prevention agenda that delineates specific health objectives with the intent of identifying what the most preventable threats to citizen's health are.
The aim is to address and reduce these threats through the year 2010 and beyond. Among the goals of the national program include (1) increasing the quality and years of healthy life that people enjoy including average life expectancy and (2) eliminate health disparities and inequalities that exist among varying segments of the population including minorities and low income families, typically individuals denied access to proper health care prevention (Healthy People, 2004).
There are numerous 'focus goals' which are also emphasized in numerous chapters including the aim to reduce the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year, to reduce the impact of secondary conditions affecting people with disabilities and to reduce the number of food borne illnesses that occur each year by promoting better food safety techniques.
Among the health indicators that can be utilized to asses an individuals overall health status include their weight, substance abuse history, exercise and physical activity level, sexual health, mental well being, environment and access to health care (Healthy People, 2004). Analysis of these factors suggests that nutrition is a vital element of the overall health and well being of the public. All aspects of health can in fact be measured to some extent as related to proper or poor nutrition.
Recent statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease control show that the mortality rate among urban dwelling citizens is much higher than those living in non-metropolitan areas. In addition, the age-adjusted death rate per 100,000 people is higher for African-Americans and other minorities than whites in major metropolitan areas as well as non-metropolitan areas. In 2000 alone for example the death rate per 100,000 people was approximately 834 for white Americans, and 1,120 for African-Americans (CDC, 2003). This is a trend that has continued according to the CDC for more than 10 years.
Among the leading causes of death cited include preventable diseases such as HIV, diseases of the heart, diabetes, anemia's, influenza, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis to name a few (CDC, 2003).
Nutritional deficits can present themselves as problems in the home or in the classroom. Children are increasingly suffering from problems such as obesity and poor motivation and energy levels. In the home families tend to grow into obesity together. Poverty and an upbringing in a low socioeconomic environment can also contribute to poor nutrition. Studies suggest that within certain cultures and subcultures, differing attitudes regarding nutrition exist.