7 2 final project submission
7-2 Final Project
Kourtney D. Chapman
Southern New Hampshire University
Childhood obesity is one of our nation’s biggest problems and has been for quite
some time. Aside from the physically disabled, many children suffer from obesity
due to many factors including lack of nutritious options at home and school, lack
of physical activity, lack of nutritional education, and socioeconomic factors as
well such as income and demographic area. While there are federal programs that
are geared toward encouraging healthy meals and exercise at school, I feel as
though more can be done outside of the school setting as well. There are a great
number of children who heavily depend on school meals as a daily source of food.
There is more work to be done to ensure children are equally exposed to healthier
meal opportunities at home as well.
Outside of being a great medical concern, childhood obesity is also a major
economic issue. Due to the heavy cost burdens incurred by being obese,
specifically later in life as these children become adults, economics plays a big
role in obesity. Childhood obesity can produce many direct and indirect costs.
Indirect costs may result from sick leave, decreased productivity, or in some
unfortunate cases, premature death. Annual direct costs to treat childhood obesity
are estimated to be around $14 billion. Direct costs associated with childhood
obesity can result from healthcare costs such as the treatment for underlying
health conditions caused by being overweight. To be more specific, let’s use
treatment for type 2 diabetes. Many obese children develop type 2 diabetes and
the condition worsens as they get older and become adults. According to
statistical data from the American Diabetes Association, revealed that treating
diagnosed diabetes yielded yearly expenditures on average of $16,752 per person.
People diagnosed with diabetes have, on average, approximately 2.3 times the
amount in medical expenses than someone who does not. Other incurred direct
costs include emergency room and outpatient visits, and prescription drugs.
Obesity rates have increased significantly despite race, socioeconomic
status, or geographic region. However, populations of a lower socioeconomic
status and those living in underprivileged areas face higher instances of obesity
than others. Lack of income poses a big issue when it comes to purchasing food.
Specifically, healthy food options are more costly than unhealthy options, which
would make it tough to get healthy food regularly on a low or fixed income.
Families still must eat regardless of what type of food it is, so they but what their
pockets can afford at the time. Individuals living in underprivileged areas are also
at a disadvantage due to the lack of fresh food options available. Grocery stores in
these areas are much smaller than other areas where there are large grocery chains
such as a Walmart, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Shoppers, and other stores alike. While
these smaller grocery stores do offer healthy options, they’re offered at a greater
price than the larger grocery stores would offer. There are many dollar stores such
as Dollar General or Family Dollar built in underprivileged areas to satisfy the
basic needs of those in the area. Since there aren’t any large stores such as
Walmart, the dollar stores are there to provide alike items such as toiletries,
kitchen, and cleaning needs. They provide food as well, however there are little to
no healthy options in these stores. This can lead to the purchase of cheap,
unhealthy options to satisfy hunger while staying within a budget. More unhealthy
consumption leads to the greater risk for obesity.
The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) was established in 2005 by
legislators with a common goal of creating needed change for those who are
affected by obesity. The organization currently has over 75,000 members.
Members share the common belief that obese children differ from obese adults
and involving the family in the child’s weight management program is key to
effective treatment. Treatment of pediatric obesity involves addressing multiple
aspects of the child and family’s nutrition, lifestyle, and physical activity patterns.
Working with the child’s physician is important to develop an individualized plan
of care tailored to the needs of the child. Various treatments of obesity in children
and adolescents include dietary therapy, physical activity, behavior modification,
and medical weight management. The Food Stamp Program or SNAP as we refer
to it now, has been previously critiqued as being a factor that led to obesity,
especially in children. Critics assume that giving these monthly food benefits has
led to increased excessive spending and consumption of food whereas without the
program they would not have. Currently, the only purchasing restriction with
SNAP benefits is the food served in the hot bar at the grocery store. This leaves
the door open for families to purchase junk food or healthy foods of their
choosing. The main goal of the SNAP program was to help alleviate hunger in
low-income families and to provide the ability to purchase more healthful foods.
Families benefit greatly from receiving SNAP benefits as they can now afford to
buy fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and proteins needed for a
balanced diet. The prices for fresh food and meats increased greatly, in large part
due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paying cash for food can become a huge
financial burden for low-income families. Many middle-class families who were
financially impacted by the pandemic and experienced significant wage loss, now
qualify as a recipient to receive SNAP benefits. These additional benefits give a
safety net for families to be assured they can put food on the table each month.
Lack of physical activity also results in obesity. Children require at least 60
minutes of physical activity a day to maintain health. Health experts suggest that
physical activity along with a healthy diet can significantly reduce the likelihood
of childhood obesity. Every child doesn’t have equal opportunities to get the
physical activity they need or the healthy foods they should be eating, which
increases the chances of obesity. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative was a
great effort to combat childhood obesity. The Initiative required elementary
schools to incorporate 60 minutes of daily physical activity into the school day to
ensure our young children in the U.S. are getting proper exposure to exercise.
Children in middle and high schools are at a greater advantage being that they
have weight training classes and other sport teams available for students to join to
Children suffering from obesity are more likely to develop serious health
conditions that can affect them well into adulthood. Obese children risk
developing conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high
cholesterol, asthma, and sleep apnea. While these are just a few examples, these
and other serious health conditions brought on by obesity incur high costs to treat,
especially as the condition worsens. This heavily impacts the healthcare system as
pharmaceutical spending is increased. The pharmacokinetics of the body are
affected by obesity which can lead to a patient requiring higher doses or more
frequent administration of medication. With obesity also comes psychological
issues as well, especially in children. Obese children are prone to be bullied
because of their excessive weight, which can cause psychological issue such as
anxiety or depression. Obese children are sometimes made to feel like they don’t
fit in with peers, which lowers their self-esteem. This can have extremely negative
effects on the mental and social health of a child.
Childhood obesity rates aren’t going to slow down, and now that we’ve
addressed several issues, it’s time to start implementing strategies to combat the
fight against obesity. Most unhealthy eating habits and poor physical activity start
at home. Pediatric physicians can educate and encourage families on the
importance of leading a healthy lifestyle rich in nutritious meals and snacks, and
proper amounts of exercise to keep everyone of every age healthier. Parents
should encourage healthier eating by replacing foods high in saturated fats and
sugars with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other high-nutrient snacks. If possible,
families should also consider nutritional classes they can attend to increase their
knowledge on why healthy eating and exercise is important. Encouraging more
physical activity is equally important as eating healthier. With the world of
technology we live in today, getting children physically active presents many
challenges. Limiting screen time with televisions, tablets, and computer screens
may encourage other activities. Screen time is usually accompanied by excessive
eating, so decreasing that activity is necessary to combat excessive weight gain in
children and adults alike. Getting physically active can help to prevent chronic
diseases such as some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Health
insurance companies can do more to influence health behaviors of beneficiaries
and to those seeking coverage. Covering the cost of obesity treatment and
prevention, create and promote prevention programs that can be instituted across
all plans, and getting out into the community to sponsor massive prevention
efforts such as walking and jogging events are just a few ways health insurance
companies can assist with combatting obesity. Pediatric physicians can educate
and encourage families on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle rich in
nutritious meals and snacks, and proper amounts of exercise to keep everyone of
every age healthier.
Decreasing childhood obesity rates will improve the quality of
health across the nation, which can lead to decreased healthcare costs as well.
Changing to better eating and exercise habits in children would make weight
control more manageable and the results seen by everyone could encourage future
healthy behaviors that last into adulthood, making for more healthier adults. The
absence of serious health conditions reduces the occurrences of hospital or ED
visits, which in turn reduces the use of pharmaceuticals. Reducing visits to the
hospital or ED reduces the amount of spending on inpatient and outpatient care as
well, which is the largest health expenditure in the U.S. Pharmaceuticals are next
after inpatient and outpatient care when it comes to health expenditures, so if we
can reduce the amount being spent, we can reallocate those funds for use
elsewhere in the healthcare industry. Reducing expenditures in one or more
categories of healthcare can free up the funding to be used elsewhere such as
treatment and prevention programs to assist the public in getting and staying
With changing habits presents the challenge of accessibility. Not every
child lives in an area that has plentiful food options or recreation space for
physical activities. Children living in low-income and rural areas are at a further
disadvantage than others when it comes to grocery options. Many of those
families are forced to choose from the few unhealthy options available to put food
on the table each day. Seeking healthcare in those areas is also a challenge since
the clinics and hospitals are further away or hard to reach due to lack of
transportation options. Improving accessibility to healthier food options and to
physicians is key to increasing the population health in those limited areas.
Everyone should have access to fresh food and quality healthcare to encourage
American Diabetes Association ADA. (2018). The cost of diabetes. The Cost of Diabetes | ADA.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 19). Childhood obesity causes &
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Healthcare Obesity Prevention Recommendations: Complete List. Obesity Prevention Source.
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Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) 2021. (2021, June 18). Treatment for children and adolescents.
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Three ways obesity is affecting the entire healthcare system. Cardinal Health. (2016, August 1).
Retrieved December 13, 2021, from https://www.cardinalhealth.com/en/essentialinsights/obesity-and-our-healthcare-system.html.