Public Health Issue: Childhood Obesity
Anna Walker, the Healthcare Commission Chief Executive explained that "Childhood obesity is a serious health problem that can follow people much later into life. It is a causal factor in a number of chronic diseases and conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes” (Audit Commission 2006). The World Health Organisation, describes obesity as having “reached global epidemic proportions, with more than 1.6 billion adults overweight, at least 400 million of those clinically obese” (WHO 2005). In England, the Department of Health (DH), states that almost “1 in 4 adults are currently obese and projects that 9 in 10 adults will either be overweight or obese if this issue is not addressed.” Obesity is therefore an important public health issue and this essay will focus on childhood obesity as a Parliament report states that overweight children and adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, it also implies more public resources over a longer time period. If obesity carries on into adulthood, in a hospital setting, the patient’s weight can have an impact on the health of NHS staff, as is already being noted by Unions (Mansfield, 2007). Epidemiology will be used to examine childhood obesity in children aged 2 to 10 within England and the relevant policies implemented in an attempt to reduce this ‘epidemic.’ The role of the nurse in helping to tackle the nationwide problem will also be considered. A Parliament Report (2003) describes those who are clinically obese as having an increased risk of suffering from health problems such as, heart attacks, hypertension, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, back pain and type 2 diabetes. Including other problems, such as stigmatisation, prejudice and discrimination, a link has also been found between obesity and depression in both adults and children (Post 2003). Obesity can be determined by an individual’s BMI, which compares weight and height. In children different cut off points have to be used to define overweight and obese children and BMI should be expressed as a percentile in relation to age and sex (Post 2003). Childhood obesity is a public health issue and Ewles and Summit (2003) describe public health as a focus on health and disease within a whole population. Epidemiology is important within public health as it is the study of how often disease, in this case obesity, occurs within different groups of people and why. Coggon et al (1993) explains that the information derived from the study of epidemiology is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom diseases has already developed. It also allows government funding to be utilised and allocated appropriately and effectively. The statistics shown have been obtained from the Health Survey for England (HSE) report, and focuses on all children rather than sex as increase is similar. It will show how prevalence of overweight and obese children between 1995 and 2003 has changed over time, this is important and Graig and Lindsay (2000) explain, prevalence is used to measure the burden of chronic disease. Between 1995 and 2003 the levels of obesity in boys rose by 5.3% and girls rose by 2.2%, for overweight boys this shows an increase of 7.1% and for girls 3%. The increase in obesity between 1995 and 2003 consisted of increases in all four age groups considered, namely 2-3, 4-5, 6-7 and 8-10. However, obesity increased by 5.3%, within 1995-2003 in children aged 8-10 this showed the largest increase and compared with the lowest increase in children aged 2-3 with an increase of 1.8%. The increase in obesity among 8-10 year olds was significant, but there were no significant increases for the other age groups. The report showed the North East and London as had the highest prevalence levels in England, with at least 18% of children aged 2-10 classified as obese in 2001-2002,...
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