Researchers are trying to figure out how personal and environmental factors interact because of the recent rise in lifestyle diseases. These factors may be to blame for the rising risks of developing lifestyle diseases. The world in which we live will affect our chances of being ill. Contrary to popular belief, the climate is not the primary cause of illness; culture plays a significant role in the emergence of these health problems. The environment in which a person lives may significantly impact how a disease develops (Fleury et al., 2006). This research paper examines one health problem, childhood obesity, as it relates to social-ecological model causes. Person factors, public policy, neighborhood factors, structural factors, and others are among them. Social Ecological Model (SEM); Obesity in Children
As we all know, obesity is one of the leading health problems facing the world today. This disease is increasingly becoming prevalent among our children. Therefore, it is critical to analyze it in a SEM perspective in order to find a permanent solution to this problem. SEM suggests that specific human behavioral factors affect obese children in our society (Fleury et al., 2006). The model comes with various levels of effects, and with effective intervention programs at the specific levels, we can be able to prevent these health issues. The popular five levels are interpersonal, organizational, society, community, and individual. Thus, if we create a supportive environment for a particular behavioral change, then the effect will be felt across the society.
Five Levels of the SEM Model that contribute to Health Disparity in Obese Children
1. Individual factors
This level depends on an individual’s knowledge, behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. The instance when the child is working with a health expert, who can be a nutritionist, counselor or physical educator, can also be considered at the individual level. Furthermore, the individual child factors such as nutritional knowledge and motivation to alter behaviors leading to obesity were responsible for obesity in childhood (Golden et al., 2012). Children who have nutritional knowledge tend to eat carefully than those with less information concerning overweight. The children should learn the importance of vegetables and less sugary foods in their bodies. This education is vital since they will be aware of their eating habits.
The physicians who work at the individual level with the children can offer professional interventions to reduce habits leading to obesity in children. When a child discusses the issue with a medical expert, he or she will most likely have weight management plans (Golden et al., 2012). Also, interaction with a physician will make the child aware of obesity indicators such as the Body Mass Index (BMI). This knowledge will enable a child to notice immediate changes in the body thus preventing obesity. It is better to inform the child while still young so that he or she can decide to change the situation (Giles-Corti et al., 2002). The older the children get, the harder they can change their physical activity patterns. Hence obesity prevention in this level requires regular visits to the physician to check on BMIs. This data will enable the children to notice with whether weight gain is proportional to height growth.
2. Interpersonal Processes and Relations with Primary Social Groups
It occurs in a society where support and assistance from the members are informal. The action of the participants in the society is not under any guidelines. Regarding obesity in children, the family is considered as the favorite target for interpersonal activities (Langille et al., 2010). However, interpersonal social groups can also be considered from different families but share a common relationship. For example, family and friends can form an interpersonal relation. When dealing with obesity research, the family is the base. The proof of family-based treatment of childhood obesity dates many years back. There is a consistent correlation between a parent’s BMI change and the change in BMI of his or her child (Robinson, 2008). Therefore, parents who have significant changes in their BMI replicate the same change to their children than the parents who cannot reduce their BMI. Another factor that influenced this level is that children who participate with their parents in BMI reduction exhibit long-term results than those who try themselves.
In consideration of a less interpersonal social group, food selection in obese youth depends majorly on the social groups (Robinson, 2008). This effect is because when a child is given access to these unhealthy foods in the presence of a peer, the child is most likely to eat more calories than when he or she is alone. When children eat more calories, they increase the risks of getting obese with time. On the contrary, when the first child in group selects a healthy snack, the rest will most likely choose to eat the healthy snack. In this case, the presence of another person influenced the food selection of the other party without necessarily having an interpersonal relationship (Langille et al., 2010). Therefore, it is essential to make healthy snacks available to our children to prevent this factor from being the cause of obesity in children.
3. Organizational factors
This factor is one of the most crucial parts of the SEM model. The groups can sensitize the obese children on the essence to eat healthily and to participate in physical activities (Yeom et al., 2008). This education will make the children make the right decisions to keep themselves healthy. To achieve this milestone step in as a society, we should understand it is possible only as a result of collaborative effort. The reinforcement in this level may come in different forms such as using organizational policies, guidelines for membership and the creation of surroundings which foster positive behavior. For instance, the children can implement their weight program through a plan called Trim Kids. This program is established to enable obese children to be able to achieve healthier weights. It is written in a book, and it can fit in any child’s schedule (Yeom et al., 2008). The program has 70% success rate, and it doubles up as an organization.
There are three primary parts to the trim kid's program. It comprises of healthy eating, developing knowledge and overall behavioral change, and participation in physical activities. Another exciting feature of the program is that it allows the family members to rate how the child is complying with the plan (Davison et al., 2013). The different groups of scores have specific guidelines to follow. The program is interactive and allows the users to observe and note the barriers to change. They are nurtured and instilled with the culture to press on since there is no finish line. Backsliding is sometimes inevitable in the process, but a healthy lifestyle is encouraged to become a norm hence countering obesity in children (Davison et al., 2013).
4. Environmental/Community Factors
A community is a vast organization that is capable of making alterations to policies and the environment to enable easy access to healthy foods (Tortolero, 2009). Obesity in children is profoundly contributed by this factor if there are no proper measures. The community can come up with ways to distribute inexpensive or free healthy foods in public schools (Franzini et al., 2009). These public schools accommodate 89% percent of the children population (Tortolero, 2009). Achievement of this goal is through funding by the respective states. Moreover, there should include interventions to make physical activities be part and parcel of all school programs. These physical activities will burn the calories in obese children hence reducing cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular diseases due to obesity (Franzini et al., 2009). Introduction of educational programs on the importance of a healthy living will hasten this stage of fighting obesity in childhood.
5. Public Policy
Since obesity is becoming one of the leading lifestyle illness, it should be handled with a serious approach. Creation of policies in the sector is advisable to boost the process of reducing obesity in childhood. Some of the policies include encouraging early child care education with qualified health experts, which can also involve health information campaigns (Economos et al., 2007). Moreover, the state needs to assist in offering technology-based to enable the obese children to track their health process (Egger et al., 1997). There should be a collaboration of anti-obesity efforts in the public and private sector. Furthermore, the state can regulate unhealthy foods by restricting certain fats in foods at public institutions and restaurants. These policies interventions will be a contributing factor in the eradication of childhood obesity.
I recommend the establishment of public policies as a starting point of implementing the SEM model. These policies will form a base in which the other levels of SEM will be created (Economos et al., 2007). Policies such as managing health data of children with obesity will fast-track the process of obesity eradication. This step is vital since the organizations can have the projections of funds required to achieve their goals (Egger et al., 1997). Furthermore, when the state gives incentives to healthy foods by subsidizing the groceries, more people will be encouraged to purchase the healthier products. This step will in turn yield results by lowering the level of obesity in children.
Since childhood obesity becomes more prudent in our society today, the government should intervene with policies to regulate this health challenge. People should be allowed to access resources that foster the fight against childhood obesity. This way, assisting children in eating healthy and staying physically active will be a lot easier. To conclude, these policies will enable individuals to make the correct healthy choices. Although they may take time, in the long- run, they will eradicate childhood obesity entirely to be a problem of the past.
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