Health Problem: Child Obesity in Canada
Needs Assessment and Rationale
An excessive accumulation of body fats causes childhood obesity over time due to positive energy balance. Therefore, the condition implies that the energy taken by affected individuals is higher than that which is expended. A positive energy balance occurs when the energy that a child obtains from eating and drinking is more than the energy used during physical activities. Rao et al. (2016) argue that obesity rates among elementary school children aged 5-12 and high school children aged 12-17 in Canada have almost tripled in the last three decades. These obese children are at greater risks of acquiring other health issues, and the weight problems are known to extend into adulthood. Whereas obesity among children is a curable sickness, parents and caregivers need to understand the causes of the health concern and adapt interventions to reduce the occurrence of the condition among minors.
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The preventable nature of obesity led to the selection of the topic of childhood obesity in Canada for this study. A focus will be on childhood obesity among Canadian children between ages of 5-12 years and will also include high school minors between 15 to17 years through a comparison between boys and girls. Fast-food consumption, rather than cooking, is also considered a primary factor that leads to obesity.
Among the health issues associated with obesity in children is asthma, depression, type-2 diabetes, among others. In 1978, 23% of the children between 2-17 years were found to be overweight or obese (Government of Canada, 2018). This figure increased to 35% in 2004. Rao et al. (2016) found that in 2016, 1 in every 7 Canadian children was reported to be suffering from obesity, which made nearly a third of the youth population overweight. In 2017, about 30% of children between 5-17 years were obese (Government of Canada, 2018). These high rates of obesity among children are a result of different factors such as genes, minimal physical activity, and unhealthy eating patterns. This group is also associated with emotional health issues such as depression, lowered self-esteem, and negative body figure and bullying (Rao et al., 2016). In light of the recent trends in obesity, associations between the behavior of people and their environment are the primary causes of obesity as compared to biological factors.
Behavioral and Environmental Determinants of Childhood Obesity
The primary behavioral determinants of childhood obesity are lifestyle factors, which include eating behaviors. Healthy diets offer the required nutrients for growth. Deepa et al. (2017) state that establishing healthy eating patterns at childhood forms a basis for lifelong healthy behaviors. Fast food consumption is associated with behavioral and social determinants of childhood obesity. Balancing of food intakes and overall meal trends among children are ideal proxy measures of healthy eating. The data provided by the government on the consumption of vegetables and fruits and other sweetened beverages indicates unhealthy eating behaviors among children in Canada. Consuming vegetables and fruits is a proven proxy measurement for the quality of diet. Less than 50% of children and youths in Canada maintain healthy eating standards. The study by Deepa et al. (2017) determined that overall, only 43.6% of children and minors consume healthy diets where boys account for 39.3% while girls account for 48.2%. Children are more likely to choose snacks and fast foods instead of cooked meals, especially during adolescence. However, studies have shown that the population of children and youths who consumed potato chips and sweets every day fell significantly from 2002 and 2010. This trend was positive in ensuring healthy diets.
The fast-food culture is among the primary factors responsible for the high rates of obesity among children in Canada. Sahoo et al. (2015) support this claim by stating that the increased consumption of fast food is associated with obesity. Most families, particularly those with both parents working away from home prefer these fast foods since their children highly prefer them. The diets are also associated with convenience and the cost factor. Meals served at these restaurants tend to have higher calories yet lower nutritional value. A research conducted to determine eating behaviors of lean and overweight youths at fast food outlets showed that both groups consumed higher calories as compared to home settings (Sahoo et al., 2015). However, the lean group’s compensation was higher for the caloric consumption through an adjustment of their calorie intakes before and after fast-food meals to compensate for the excessive calories consumed in these meals. Social factors have also been associated with obesity. The society has normalized the use of food as a reward, a controlling tool, and an aspect of socialization. These trends promote unhealthy relationships with food, thus raising the risk of becoming obese.
The management of childhood obesity requires an alteration of environmental and behavioral factors, which could potentially raise the risk of the condition among minors. The health behaviors require a practical approach, which includes the involvement of the whole family in primary prevention measures and interventions aimed at assisting obese children. Stein et al., (2014) argues that these measures and programs can be achieved through interactive nutritional education, testing on taste, building skills for cooking, groups for discussing nutritional topics with parents, and hands-on preparation of meals. Even though most families are adopting the interventions, particularly with regards to healthy food choices, most of these practices are not maintained after six months.
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Researchers agree that the creation of a more favorable setting around food requires the involvement of the whole family. Such efforts can transform the fast-food culture to embracing more home-cooked meals that are nutritious. The initial strategy is modeling healthy patterns by engaging in balanced eating habits (Stein et al., 2014). The second approach entails the provision of a healthy environment by parents for their children to make better health choices. Parents can offer a home setting, which includes many fruits, vegetables, and family meals with minimal television or other idle sessions. The behavioral theory chosen for this study focuses on promoting adaptive attitudes instead of concentrating on weight. Parents are encouraged to help their kids in the development of a culture, which goes beyond the body appearance to non-appearance characteristics (Stein et al., 2014). This approach helps in the moderation children interests or preoccupying them with appreciating average weight and dieting.
The social cognitive theory is a behavioral model designed to prevent obesity among children. This prevention is achieved through interactions between personal behavior and environment factors. Mohammad et al. (2018) argue that this theory involves individual feelings as central elements of personal factors with health skills for regulation and action as behavioral factors. This theory depends on the decisions made by the involved individuals. In this case, parents act as guides for the decisions made by their children. Since motivation alone is not adequate for the initiation of healthy behaviors, children are also expected to set goals and design skills for self-regulating (Mohammad et al. 2018). Therefore, children are expected to set goals on regulating the consumption of fast foods.
Suggestions of a Potential Approach to the Intervention
The success of the program is dependent on various factors, which are needed for the achievement of change. The health behavior, in our case, entails the involvement of parents in their children’s decision making on the type of foods they consume. The process involves a successful transition from the consumption of fast foods to embracing home-prepared meals that are more nutritional. Most children tend to take up healthy eating habits into their adulthood. Therefore, the community plays a significant role in the promotion of prevention and management methods in childhood obesity. In addition, the community needs to promote proper relationships between individuals and food by advocating for the benefits of home-prepared meals, vegetables, and fruits. These relationships are promoted through programs for educating different groups on the importance of limiting fast foods and turning towards the nutritional meals available at home.
Although obesity among children is a curable condition, parents and caregivers need to understand the causes of health concern. The group also needs to incorporate interventions to reduce the occurrence of the condition among minors. So far, various steps have been taken to address the problem. These steps include intensive research on the connection between various factors such as physical activity or sleep and the rising cases of childhood obesity. These forms of research have raised awareness of the dangers associated with various lifestyle choices in developing obesity. Lay programs and school-based intervention programs have also been utilized to provide a more individualistic approach to the problem. These programs involve peer-support and self-evaluation, among other approaches. One of the common lay programs used is power up where teachers lead sessions of weekly nutrition and physical activities. Discussions by parents on health-related topics, which are practiced at home are also undertaken. The target group and other stakeholders such as parents and the community are the potential leverage points for intervention. These groups are responsible for promoting healthy eating habits among children and discouraging high reliance on fast foods while neglecting the benefits of home preparation of meals.
- Deepa, R., Erin, K., Minh, D., Karen, R., Gayatri, J. (2017). Status report childhood overweight and obesity in Canada: an integrative assessment. Health Promo Chronic Dis Prev Can, 37 (3), 87-93.
- Government of Canada. (2019, February 21). Tackling obesity in Canada: childhood obesity and excess weight rates in Canada. Retrieved from Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/obesity-excess-weight-rates-canadian-children.html
- Mohammad, B., Taghipour, A., Sharma, M., Sahebkar, A., Contento, I., Keshavarz, S. (2018). Obesity intervention programs among adolescents using social cognitive theory: a systematic literature review. Health Education Research, 33 (1), 26-39.
- Rao, D., Kropac, E., Do, T., Roberts, K., Jayaraman, G. (2016). Childhood overweight and obesity trends in Canada. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can, 36 (9), 194-198.
- Sahoo, K., Choudhury, A., Sofi, N., Kumar, R., Bhadoria, A. (2015). Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. J Family Med Prime Care, 4 (2), 187-192.
- Stein, D., Litman, D., Latzer, Y. (2014). Psychosocial perspectives and the issue of prevention in childhood obesity. Front Public Health, 2, 104.
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