Obesity in America The Prevalence of Obesity Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Obesity in America:

The prevalence of obesity and related health problems has increased dramatically in the past few decades to an extent that it's now regarded as one of the most pressing public health issue in the United States. Generally, obesity and overweight are usually brought by various factors such as socioeconomic, behavioral, cultural, metabolic, environmental, and inherited effects. This health issue contributes to the increase of the risk of several illnesses like heart disease, breathing problems, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and various kinds of arthritis and cancer. The main reason for the increased risk is that the prevalence of health risks enhances as a person's weight increases. Due to its prevalence in the United States, obesity has been identified as a national health objective by the Department of Health and Human Services. This health issue is among the 10 leading health indicators in the national health objectives as stated in Healthy People 2020 report. One of the reasons attributed to this consideration is the fact that reduction in obesity has numerous potential benefits that of public health importance.

Obesity as a National Health Issue:

As previously mentioned, the United States has experienced a rapid increase of obesity and overweight-related problems in the past few decades that has made the issue one of the major health problems in the country. Actually, there are over one third of adults beyond 20 years who are obese or people with a body mass index of 30 or more (Kirby et al., 2012, 1572). The problem of obesity has not only contributed to risk factors for various chronic conditions but has also developed to become one of the leading causes of lost years of life and premature mortality. According to statistics, the number of deaths attributed to obesity in America is only second to cigarette smoking. Consequently, if the obesity endemic continues to increase in the United States, the current generation will have a shorter life expectancy.

The major contributing factors to overweight and obesity include genes, the environment, behavior, and metabolism. The American environment is considered as one of the main factor in the problem of obesity within the country. As a result of the numerous changes in the American environment, people have experienced several difficulties to engage in healthy behavior. For example, the current environment is characterized by prevalence of food and associated messages everywhere, increase in food portions at home and restaurants, and little involvement in physical activity.

In both the previous and current version of Healthy People, physical activity is one of the main indicators of health. Actually, the objectives of Healthy People 2010 for preventing and controlling childhood obesity identified five general goals towards addressing the problem of obesity in the country. These general goals include increasing daily physical activity among various people, lessening the amount of time spent on activities like watching television, and decreasing the consumption of foods that enhance the risk of obesity. The other goals are enhancing the consumption of nutritious foods and promote initiatives that enforce behavioral and environmental change ("Action Plan -- Healthy People 2010," n.d.).

Addressing and Managing the Problem of Obesity:

Since obesity has developed to become a major health problem in the United States, there are various efforts that have been taken to address and manage this public health issue. These efforts have included the establishment of various federal, state, and local agencies that are mandated with the task of addressing and managing obesity. Generally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was mandated with the task of reporting on the status of obesity prevention programs in Medicaid program to the Congress as part of healthcare reforms. Addressing and managing the problem of obesity has also included the incorporation of community organizations, food industry, schools, and the medical community since this issue requires a comprehensive and strong approach.

Some of the major federal agencies that have taken various approaches towards obesity prevention include The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Heart Association, Center for Disease Control, The Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services. State agencies have also been involved in addressing the issue through developing initiatives to promote healthy behavior and lifestyles as well as prevent illness through nutrition and exercise programs. Examples of the state agencies involved in this process are Washington's State Department of Health and Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment. From these examples, it can be concluded that the major state agencies mandated with these tasks are those that deal with health services. In contrast, the main local agencies with the task of addressing and managing the problem of obesity are local school districts ("Financing Childhood Obesity," 2005).

Models and Systems used to Determine and Evaluate Obesity:

There are various conceptual frameworks and theoretical models that have been used in prevention of obesity, which is a major public health issue. In addition to this, there are various systems and models used to determine and evaluate the issue of obesity. The main model used to determine and analyze the issue is body mass assessment. This model consists of various systems such as measurements of body mass index, infrared body composition analysis, and bioelectrical impedance assessment. The main reason for the use of these model and systems is mainly because body fat composition is a widely accepted indicator for general health.

One of the most commonly used models in determining body fat composition is body mass index, which is used for classifying obesity and overweight. The reason for the increased use of body mass index as an indicator of body fat is that the process does not require any special training or instrumentation to conduct. Since it's easily calculated using the measurements of height and weight, body mass index is usually determined through dividing body weight by the square of height.

However, bioelectrical impedance is used as the actual measure of percent body fat unlike body mass index because it's dependent on the conductivity of body tissues to determine the amount of total body fat since fats act as electrical current insulator. Unlike the first two options, infrared body composition analysis is a readily accessible model whose measurement is based on the principle that human fat soak up light at particular wavelengths in the near-infrared position of the spectrum. The resultant units emit the frequency and evaluate how much of the emitted energy is absorbed (Laymon, Kodat & Chung, 2010).

In determining and analyzing the issue of obesity, the National Center for Health Statistics by the Center for Disease Control provides data regarding the prevalence of the problem. This agency compiles statistical information from the private and public health partners in order to provide data that help in identifying and addressing various health issues such as obesity. The main reason for compiling the information or data is to help understand the health and health outcomes of the community and population by providing a broad perspective. In order to compile this information, the agency utilizes various data collection models or systems to obtain precise information from various sources.

Obesity in Hispanic-Americans:

In the United States, the prevalence of obesity among Hispanic-American populations is relatively higher as compared to the white populations. However, the prevalence of the issue within the population is higher among Mexican-Americans than Puerto Ricans and Cuban Americans. The prevalence of the health issue among this population is associated with the increasing levels of diabetes that increases the level of body mass index. However, diabetes does not account for the higher prevalence of obesity among Mexican-Americans. This is primarily because the link between high-density lipoprotein cholesterol subfractions, risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and systolic blood pressure was similar to that of other populations in the United States (Nichaman & Garcia, 1991, p. 691).

Hispanic-Americans are the main target of the objective since they account for a huge portion of the prevalence of obesity unlike other populations. According to the findings of research, living in communities with a high concentration of Hispanic-Americans was linked with approximately 0.42 increase in body mass index. On the contrary, living in communities with less Hispanic concentration was associated with 0.68 decrease in body mass index. These figures were achieved while controlling the individual-level and community-level demographic, economic, and social variables. The study basically demonstrates that the obesity epidemic in America has disproportionately impacted some ethnic and racial minority groups.

Notably, recent studies have shown that community-level characteristics can contribute to obesity despite of the individual characteristics. These community-level characteristics include accessibility and availability of parks, paths, sidewalks, and recreational facilities as well as the cost and selection of food items. Moreover, these community-level characteristics increase the risk of obesity regardless of the individual's race or ethnic group. Nonetheless, there are wide racial or ethnic disparities among various populations and communities in the United States.

As evident from the above discussion, the main model used in determining the prevalence of obesity among Hispanic-Americans is through conducting a body mass index. This model or system…

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