Childhood obesity is a huge health problem that faces children both locally and internationally and needs an action that is innovative at all levels. The condition has both long-term and immediate negative health outcomes. It is linked strongly to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, certain types of cancer, and gall bladder diseases. Addressing the obesity risk factors easily in life (childhood) helps reduce the likelihood of a child being obese or overweight. This paper is a proposal for a health promotion project focusing on children as a vulnerable population with childhood obesity as a health issue. The paper will then discuss a literature review explaining why the project is currently needed for obese children. Furthermore, it will contrast and compare other existing programs. Additionally, the paper will provide the background to the project before listing its aims and objectives for the project.
Children as a vulnerable population
According to WHO (2015), vulnerability is the degree to which an organization, an individual, or a population cannot cope, anticipate, recover from or resist the impact of the disaster. Immunocompromised people or ill people, malnourished people, elderly, pregnant women, and children are regarded as vulnerable populations, particularly when diseases strike, because they represent a larger share of the burden of the disease. This paper will particularly focus on children as a vulnerable population to obesity. WHO (2015) stated that children are not adults because they possess unique and different environmental exposure patterns. Furthermore, they have developmentally determined susceptibilities that increase their disease risks when exposed to the environment.
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Childhood obesity as a health disparity
Child obesity, according to Myoclinic (2015), is a medical condition that is very serious and affects adolescents and children. The condition occurs when a child weighs the normal weight for a child of their height and age. On the other hand, CDC (2015) defined overweight body weight as more than a particular height from bones, muscles, water, fat, or even a combination. Similarly, obesity, as defined by CDC (2015), is having body fat in excess. The condition is troubling health disparity among the children population because the extra weight in children makes them start having health problems that once were regarded as for the adults, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Moreover, Mayoclinic (2015) indicated that childhood obesity could also result in depression, poor self-esteem among the children, stress on joints and bones, fatty liver, behavior problems, sleep apnoea, and snoring.
The planned intervention program
The planned intervention program needs sustainable planning to improve the children’s health outcomes. Sustainability is an important component in planning since sustainable programs can continue and be integrated within the community even after the discontinuation of the funding (Shediac-Rizkallah and Bone, 1998). Sustainability is defined as a dynamic process involving the continuation of a program. Sustainability is important because lack of it can lead to loss of investments hence potentially impacting the programs coming in the future (Van Acker et al., 2012). To ensure the program’s sustainability, it will rely on effective and innovative approaches to interventions affecting the change at the institutional, organizational, and individual levels. Structures will be established and maintained throughout the program, with continuous required assessments.
Furthermore, the project will apply philosophies and principles of health promotion in developing the program. The principles of health promotion that the proposed health program will use include consumer and community participation in making decisions, equity, use of affordable and socially acceptable technology, provision of health education, and provision of services based on the population’s needs. On the other hand, the project will use philosophies of health promotion. As program promoters, the decisions concerning resources and strategies will be determined by our values, and this will affect people’s responses to health promotion. Therefore, cultural and ethical values will be considered before planning any action. The project will work with people by allowing them to participate in all programs, especially those affecting their daily lives.
Childhood obesity is a severe health issue; therefore, all stakeholders should turn around this increasing trend. The condition should be addressed with a lot of sensitivity to avoid unintended or negative consequences such as stigma. Therefore, this paper proposed a planned intervention considering the psycho-social aspects of childhood obesity and overweight. This intervention supports physical activity, healthy weight, and healthy eating among obese children. The planned intervention program in this paper will be referred to as the “Childhood Obesity Intervention program.” The program entails three integrated strategies that will involve all concerned stakeholders since childhood obesity is a collective health issue, and they include:
- Strategy 1: making childhood obesity a priority for all government health agencies and ministries
- Strategy 2: coordinating efforts on the priorities
- Supportive environments: making physical and social environments where the children play, learn and live more supportive of healthy eating and physical activity
- Early action: finding out the risks of obesity and overweight in children and addressing them early
- Nutritious foods: coming up with ways to increase accessibility and availability of nutritious foods and decreasing the marketing, accessibility, and availability of beverages and foods with high sugar, fat, and sodium in children
- Strategy 3: Assessing and reporting on the intervention’s collective progress in childhood obesity reduction, learning from successful strategies and initiatives, and modifying the approaches appropriately.
Strategy 1: making childhood obesity a priority for all government health agencies and ministries
Under this strategy, the government and non-government health agencies and key ministries will be required to mobilize and engage all societal sectors. Given that childhood obesity is a huge health problem, has huge impacts, and has roots in the entire society, a collective effort is needed to:
- To marshal all societal sectors to combat the childhood obesity cause
- To create child’s environments to be easy to choose, healthy choices for physical activity and eating
- To promote opportunities for communities, families, and individuals to take action and embrace positive behavioral changes by improving healthy eating and increasing physical activities
Government and non-government health agencies and key ministries will champion this intervention program in the following ways:
- Become visible and active change catalysts to increase actions on the childhood obesity issue within their agencies, ministries, and departments
- Be champions of government actions with their fellows in other agencies, ministries, and departments to address the known factors contributing to childhood obesity, which also do not fall within the health, such as education and infrastructure.
- Act as societal level support and engagement mobilizers to inspire the policy and decision-makers, youth and children, community and NGO leaders, private and public, to change public policy and environments
Strategy 2: coordinating efforts on the priorities
- Supportive environments
Under this strategy, actions will be directed toward children throughout their different phases of childhood development, where they learn, live, and play. That is in the community, in their families, and at schools. Physical activity and healthy eating are important for young children’s development to reduce obesity risks later in life (GCOU, 2011). For instance, exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months helps prevent overfeeding and reduce early childhood obesity risks.
According to PHAC (2015), most children spend their early hours of the day in school environments on most days of the week. Therefore, schools’ policies that can contrite to obesity reduction should be encouraged. They include policies that examine the types of beverages and food sold and served in schools. Quality physical education and provision of a safe and active mode of transportation to and from schools.
The families will also be engaged and supported early in the children’s lifespan since, for most children, their parents offer the first opportunity of creating cultural, physical, and social environments, promoting healthy development and growth in all aspects of the life of the child.
b. Early action
Monitoring an infant and its child’s growth regularly is significant for identifying obesity risks early. When a child is identified as being at obesity risk, a variety of interventions that are appropriate developmentally, such as physical activity, nutrition, and building self-esteem, will offer families and their children several opportunities to address this critical issue. Improving parental knowledge, skills, and awareness of physical activity and healthy eating will be key to effectively addressing the issue.
C. Nutritious foods
This strategy also recognizes the healthy option and should be easily recognizable and available. Communities should be encouraged to adopt healthy eating habits that contain nutritious foods. Keleher, MacDougall & Murphy (2007) pointed out that social determinants of health such as income tend to limit the ability of a family to make healthy choices effectively. Additionally, given that children are vulnerable, they have little control over their environment and are easily influenced. Their exposure to the marketing of beverages and foods high in sodium, sugar, and fats will be vital in decreasing their consumption.
Strategy 3: Assessing and reporting on the intervention’s collective progress
Three key components of the intervention program will support assessment and reporting on the intervention’s collective progress in childhood obesity and overweight reduction. First of all, it is vital to continually inform policy options through the information from surveillance, research, and other forms both locally and internationally. Secondly, the obesity and overweight of the children should be tracked as well as the factors that influence weight. Lastly, monitoring and reporting regularly will determine the progress and allow any modification to the planned intervention program, if needed, to realize the necessary societal shifts to curb childhood obesity.
The proposed “Childhood Obesity Intervention program” and the entire project are currently needed to address the scourging childhood obesity for several reasons. First, the proposed intervention program is inclusive and incorporates different intervention programs, incorporating all stakeholders in health, government, and non-government organizations to address this health issue. The rate of childhood obesity between the year 1985-1995 tripled, and overweight doubled in Australia. Moreover, obesity and overweight continue to rise in Australia. DAA (2015) pointed out a national health survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which indicated that between 2007 and 2008, the results showed that between children aged five years to 17 years, one in every four is obese or overweight.
Similarly, CDC (2015) stated that childhood obesity has doubled among children in the past 30 years and quadrupled amongst adolescents. In the United States, the percentage of children who were obese and aged 6 to 11 years increased to 18% from 7% from 1980 to 2012. Furthermore, the percentage of adolescents in the United States aged between 12 years to 19 years who are obese increased over the same period to 21% from 5%. The rising obesity and overweight rates among children and adults is a global health issue, and this has seen the establishment of the International Obesity Taskforce by WHO to implement strategies that will help combat this problem. According to Must & Strauss (1999), Australian obese children have a 25%-50% chance of becoming adult who is obese. This increases with the rising overweight degree, which is carried into adolescence and later into adulthood. This also increases if one of the parents or both are obese or overweight.
The proposed “Childhood Obesity Intervention program” compared and contrasted to other existing programs shows that the proposed intervention has a higher likelihood of success and can impact significantly. Other health intervention programs include school-based, individual-based, community-based, government-supported childhood obesity prevention interventions, policies, and population-wide initiatives incorporating physical activities, nutrition, or both.
The proposed “Childhood Obesity Intervention program” is effective because its multi-component and targets both diet and physical activity compared to other programs that solely aim for physical activity or nutrition. This proposed intervention also involves family, carers, experts, government, concerned stakeholders, and peers hence more effective than individual-based programs. Moreover, the program targets the population group appropriately and considers the influence of socio-economic status, sex, and age. The program is also engaging and fun, emphasizing healthy lifestyle management based on a theoretical framework and hence practical.
Background to the project
Childhood obesity and overweight come from an imbalance in the energy consumed by the children and the energy they expend continually over time. This implies that obesity and overweight will result from the more energy the child consumes from drinks and food compared to that the child burns up by actively playing physically and exercising. The additional energy not expended by the child is stored in the body as fat (DAA, 2015).
The risk factors for childhood obesity are diverse. According to Mayoclinic (2015), some of the risk factors for childhood obesity include; lack of exercise, poor diet, family, socio-economic, and psychological factors. Children who do not exercise regularly have a higher probability of gaining weight since they do not burn down their excess body calories. GCOU (2011) indicated that children who spend too much time in sedentary activities such as playing video games, watching television, and many more are more likely to be obese. On the diet factor, children who eat high caloric food regularly, such as fast foods, vending machine snacks, baked goods, candy and desserts, and soft drinks, can easily gain weight (Langwith, 2013). Under the family risk factors, Juettner (2010) stated that a child from a family with overweight people has a higher likelihood of gaining weight. This is further exuberated by an environment with high caloric foods, and physical exercise among the children is not encouraged. Psychologically, some children tend to overeat to cope with emotional problems such as braid or fight off boredom. Lastly, the socio-economic factors include the people in areas with limited resources or are not accessible to supermarkets and therefore tend to stock convenience foods that do not go bad quickly, such as cookies, crackers, and frozen meals. Additionally, people living in low-income neighborhoods may not be accessing or may not have grounds, gymnasiums, and parks for exercising.
Aims and objectives of the project
- To make implement an inclusive intervention program for childhood obesity.
- To build awareness of the childhood obesity problem
- To assess the strength of the proposed “Childhood Obesity Intervention program” as compared to other intervention programs
- To connect those already working on the childhood obesity issue with new sectors and new organizations
- Ensure that the intervention strategies emphasize environmental and policy changes, not just family and individual efforts.
In conclusion, Australia has an epidemic of childhood obesity that will significantly affect the healthcare system. If not addressed with the urgency it deserves, this condition may make the children have less healthy lives and even shorter life spans than their parents. Innovative and unique solutions incorporating government health agencies, private organizations, communities, schools, and families working together is the best option for this condition to implement programs and policies effectively. Not only will being active or eating well solve childhood obesity, but a set of economic, environmental, technological, psychological, and social forces operating in communities, nationally and globally. The proposed program will focus on three principal strategies for stakeholder collaboration and multi-sectorial engagement across agencies and ministries to promote children’s healthy weight.
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