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Essay on public health

Assisting children to keep up with a healthy weight is a fundamental public health objective, which has proven to alleviate illness and consequently improve the quality and quantity of their lives. However, the over the past years percentages of children and youths with overweight has been faced with intense and dramatic increases. Overweight amongst United States children and adolescents have a significant impact on society and pose one of the greatest public health challenges in the country. Trends have been shown to report increases with the rates of the affected populations hitting 16% in recent years, in contrast to 11% rates reported in 1990’s.

Notably, an estimated 15% of children and adolescents falling under the ages of six and nineteen are suffering with obesity. This has proved an uphill task for any initiative aimed at countering the souring numbers. This has been worsened by the lack of adequate children-target public information, on the best practices that focus on the nature of diet they take and the extent of physical activity they partake. The data collected on the prevalence, and trends of overweight amongst children and adolescents assists in analyzing different contributing factors and developing target interventions.  It is, therefore, paramount to focus on children-community based interventions aimed at alleviating the rates of childhood overweight through extensive education and communication campaign messages.

The American Medical Association (AMA) advocates for a healthy weight in compacting childhood overweight. AMA is drafting strategies aimed at assisting the country’s youth realize and maintain a healthy weight, as well as eradicating inconsistent rates of childhood overweight in certain racial and ethnic groups. In addition, the AMA has set up educational forums on adolescent health, nutrition and physical activity with the aim of addressing the clinical and non-clinical aspects of overweight.

National trends and prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents is examined using statistics posted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES has reported an estimated 17% prevalence rate of children and adolescents aged between 2-19 years. The trends have shown that overweight has risen from 5.0% to 10.4% since 1976-1980, and towards 2007-2008 from 6.5% to 19.6% among children aged 6-11 years. The use of Body Mass Index (BMI) in the determination of overweight in adults is subsequently used in children with the cutoff criteria being founded using the 2000 CDC BMI-for-age-growth charts for the United States(Cynthia O, Margaret C, 2008).

However, use of BMI as a tool for measurement of overweight varies amongst different ages and sex making it difficult to determine the extent of overweight of children and adolescents. A considerable disparity on overweight prevalence amongst children and adolescents of different racial and ethnic backgrounds has been documented. For instance, prevalence amongst non-Hispanic white boys varied from 11.6% to 16% between 1988-1994 and 2007-2008 respectively. In contrast, non-Hispanic black boys showed 10.7% to 19.8%, while Mexican-American boys reported 14.1% to 26.8% over the same period of study (Cynthia O, Margaret C, 2008).

More likely overweight children and adolescents develop high-blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high-cholesterol conditions which often predispose them to cardiovascular diseases. Reports for the year 2009 showed prevalence amongst American Indian and Alaska Native children at the highest rate of 20.7%. More so, trends have shown that, since 2004, increases in overweight incidences have only been reported amongst American Indian and Alaska Native children (Whitaker R, Anderson S, 2009).

Certain strategies have been adopted by various state organs and private organizations as well as individual initiatives. Such strategies include use of CDC’s State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009 to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables. More strategies include limiting the availability of energy dense food and sugar beverages on places that children and adolescents are likely to eat. In addition, various states have developed educative campaigns aimed at promoting and supporting breastfeeding. Notably, increased television viewing has been shown to reduce children and adolescents physical activity as well as influence their eating behavior, because most unhealthy foods are highly advertised on television (Zimmerman F, Bell J 2010). Consequently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has initiated watching-time standards to help in alleviating the television-effect. Individual initiatives such as, the First Lady Obama, Let’s Move Campaign aimed at empowering parents and caregivers in providing health food for their children in schools have proved to be fundamental in countering overweight.

The CDC through the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program to Prevent and Overweight and Other Chronic Diseases provides funding to all states to be utilized in programs and initiatives aimed at improving healthy eating, and increasing physical activity. However, the funding seems not be sufficient in attaining the targeted objectives. It is, therefore, fundamental for more funding kitties to be provided both at national and state levels. More so, the funding ought to be channeled at community based initiatives that are developed by each state resident’s as they are likely to come up with programs that involve their communities directly. In essence, the funding can be raised through government-sponsored programs as well as private-initiated funding.

Social marketing plays a fundamental task in educating the public and encouraging healthy altitudes that produce lesser populations of overweight children and adolescents. Focus should be laid upon initiatives that involve children and adolescents in their messages to attract the needed attention. Successive campaigns, ought to involve children and adolescents in community-based activities such as, a marathon dubbed, “Run for Your Future”. The children and adolescents should be made to understand that the marathon for instance, is meant for their better future. Use of the media to advocate for healthy living can provide a significant boost towards changing children and adolescents altitudes on overweight. The media should be utilized in identifying predisposing factors for the target group and warning on possible consequences of being overweight.