Obesity refers to a medical condition in which excess body fat accumulates in a way that creates an adverse effect on health (Allport et al., 2019). A study by Allport et al. (2019) observed that obesity has become a serious health and social challenge in the United States where almost 35% of its citizens are obese. The study also observed that obesity is no longer a challenge of "girth control" alone but also one of the chronic diseases as per the American College of Endocrinology (ACM), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Agovino et al. (2019) assert that of the total population, almost 35% of men are obese while 40% of women in America have overweight and obesity challenges. The side effects of obesity have been identified as increased risk of coronary artery disease, increased risk of certain types of cancer, stroke, economic cost, type 2 diabetes, and increased early mortality (Agovino et al., 2019). To effectively deal with the social challenge of obesity, the government as a social institution has a significant role to play, to an extent of benchmarking the efforts of other countries towards solving the problem.
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The United States federal government as a social institution is at the forefront of addressing obesity and trying to bring some functionality in society. After the call by the Surgeon General in the USA by 2001 to decrease and prevent obesity and overweight, the federal government has tried to deal with obesity through setting a variety of government programs as well as policies (Hall, 2019). Some of the programs put in place include nutrition labeling on packaged foods, the creation of national clinical guidelines, labeling of calories in menus, social marketing, and educational campaign as well as the federal increase in fresh vegetable and fruits financing (Wang et al., 2020). However, most of the policies and programs are based on educational and community interventions (Wang et al., 2020). Moreover, recently, the government has rarely addressed environmental obesity drivers regardless of the increasing scientific and theoretical evidence for policies that intervene on environmental factors of overconsumption of food (Hall, 2019; Wang et al., 2020). Studies by Jastreboff et al. (2019) criticize government interventions in the obesity problem since the interventions have achieved little success in the USA. Consequently, to reduce obesity, there is a need for policy changes that enhance physical activities and food defaults for all citizens (Jastreboff et al., 2019).
The fight against obesity has been met with challenges that originate from the community. As stated, obesity is a very complex health issue to address since it results from various causes as well as contributing factors, which include genetics and behavior such as dietary patterns, and physical activity as well as the use of medicine (Allport, 2019; Jastreboff et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2020). Studies reveal that, in addition to environmental factors that cause obesity, family history also greatly contributes to obesity. Family health history reveals the impact of shared genetics among close relatives. Since certain traits are inherited from generation to generation, inherited obesity is difficult to handle hence becoming one of the biggest challenges which thwart the efforts put against obesity. Other factors which challenge the fight against obesity is the consumption of highly processed foods, which have additional salt, sugars, and artificial ingredients (Jastreboff et al., 2019). This increases fat storage in the body hence increasing obesity prevalence. Change of nature of work and sedentary lifestyle is also another challenge that thwarts efforts put against obesity. Studies indicate that people are less active today than they used to be (Agovino et al., 2019), as a result of increased urbanization and changes in the built environment. Other challenges include increased stress and depression resulting in substance and alcohol use and increased fast foods in the markets (Agovino et al., 2019).
Other countries are also dealing with the obesity epidemic. For instance, the United Kingdom has come up with some effective policies to deal with the obesity problem. These policies and programs include setting policies to enhance citizens’ physical activity in projects such as walkability and bicycling, which have taken large infrastructure investments (Jones et al., 2019). Another strategy is the introduction of a program known as Change4life, which incorporates collaborative activities of the local governments, the national government, and schools as well as the NHS organizations to educate the citizens on the significance of physical activities and healthy consumption benefits (Jones et al., 2019). The government has also adopted a marketing strategy that integrates large advertising companies to promote healthy eating and living. Lastly, the government has introduced school games into the curriculum (Sniehotta et al., 2019). It is also notable that, other states like Finland, Singapore, and Germany have also adopted similar methods as in the UK and the US to fight against obesity as per Häkkänen et al. (2019) and Geene et al. (2020).
To conclude, it is evident that obesity is increasingly becoming a serious social and health challenge in the United States. However, the federal government is trying to deal with obesity through setting a variety of government programs, policies, and legislation to promote the wellbeing of citizens, though these have been heavily criticized due to the ever-increasing obesity cases. However, the United States can borrow some strategies to effectively deal with the problem of obesity from other countries, especially in Europe. For instance, the United Kingdom is implementing programs and policies that promote physical activity. A perfect example is the introduction of the Change4life program, which through adopting marketing strategies integrates marketing companies to spread awareness of the need to engage in physical activities, and introduces school games into the curriculum. Other countries such as Singapore, Germany, and Finland also have similar strategies that can be effectively adopted in the US to deal with the social challenge of obesity.
- Agovino, M., Crociata, A., & Sacco, P. L. (2019). Proximity effects in obesity rates in the US: A Spatial Markov Chains approach. Social Science & Medicine, 220(2019): 301-311.
- Allport, L., Song, M., Leung, C. W., McGlumphy, K. C., & Hasson, R. E. (2019). Influence of Parent Stressors on Adolescent Obesity in African American Youth. Journal of Obesity, 73(6): 577-584.
- Geene, R., Babitsch, B., Hassel, H., Kliche, T., Paulus, P., Quilling, E., ... & Dadaczynski, K. (2020). Conceptual approaches in the prevention of child overweight in Germany—the research project ‘Systematization of Conceptual Approaches’(SCAP). Journal of Public Health, 28(1): 41-44.
- Häkkänen, P., But, A., Ketola, E., & Laatikainen, T. (2019). Distinct age‐related patterns of overweight development to guide school healthcare interventions. Acta Paediatrica. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.15036
- Hall, K. D. (2019). The potential role of protein leverage in the US obesity epidemic. Obesity, 27(8): 1222-1224.
- Jastreboff, A. M., Kotz, C. M., Kahan, S., Kelly, A. S., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2019). Obesity as a disease: the obesity society 2018 position statement. Obesity, 27(1): 7-9.
- Jones, H. M., Al‐Khudairy, L., Melendez‐Torres, G. J., & Oyebode, O. (2019). Viewpoints of adolescents with overweight and obesity attending lifestyle obesity treatment interventions: a qualitative systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 20(1): 156-169.
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