Obesity: Policy Brief

Introduction

Obesity is a crucial concern that should be addressed on the national level. It affects both children and adults, and the problem is becoming more acute every decade. This fact reveals that there is a need to develop policies aimed at decreasing the prevalence of the condition among the population of the United States. The policies should focus on both reducing the number of people having obesity and increasing the public awareness of the condition and its effects.

This health policy brief presents a clear description of the policy problem, the significance and history of the issue, possible barriers to success, stakeholders, and the impact on access, cost, and quality. Moreover, it introduces alternative policy strategies aimed at reducing obesity among the population of the United States. The paper concludes that it is crucial to implement at least some steps to enhance the public awareness of the issue and decrease the prevalence of the condition.

Health Policy Brief: Definition and Description

The health policy brief aims at presenting the problem of obesity to the audience concerned about the issue. It involves policymakers on the regional and national levels, medical professionals, healthcare employers, and other stakeholders, helping to combat the problem. As mentioned above, the issue discussed in this report is obesity among the American population. Currently, more than 100 billion individuals living in the United States experience symptoms of the condition (Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), 2019). The existing policies and programs aiming at reducing the impact of obesity include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) along with various legal, national, and regional regulations.

Impact on Cost, Access, and Quality

Obesity has a significant impact on cost, quality, and access to healthcare services. For instance, obesity-related costs for Medicaid are more than 8% higher in the case of obese individuals compared to those not living with this condition (Musich et al., 2016). Moreover, the costs associated with obesity and going towards pharmaceutical utilization are more than 15% higher than those not related to this issue.

Obesity affects the quality of care, too, as there is a stigma associated with the condition (Phelan et al., 2015). Healthcare professionals may have a biased perspective of their patients’ health state because, often, they believe that obesity is the risk factor that affects the majority of their health conditions. As for access to services, patients having obesity may experience various challenges, too. For instance, the requirement for a secondary diagnosis and long wait times for an appointment are some of the crucial barriers they encounter (Phelan et al., 2015). Thus, it is vital to minimize the prevalence of obesity and support individuals living with the condition.

Background, History, and Current Importance

As mentioned above, obesity is becoming a more acute problem with time. For example, the prevalence of obesity in the adult population of the country and children has increased by 70% and 85%, correspondingly within the past three decades (Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), 2019).

It means that currently, the existing measures aimed at preventing obesity among the population are not effective. The changes to obesity-related programs are introduced regularly due to the growing number of people affected by it. For instance, WIC is one of the programs that are modified frequently according to the needs of individuals. The facts presented above reveal that it is crucial to prevent the growing prevalence of the condition among the population.

Key Stakeholders, Their Roles, and Policy Influence

The key stakeholders that can affect obesity-related policies are national and regional authorities, healthcare professionals, and employers working in the medical field. The roles of the individuals working in the healthcare settings are reporting the prevalence of the disease, addressing concerns associated with it, and advocating for individuals living with the condition. The impact of these stakeholders is crucial because they work with patients directly and can observe their health state and the factors affecting it. Moreover, they can outline the possible needs of people living with obesity and report them to policymakers.

The national and local authorities, in turn, can affect policies associated with obesity by suggesting and introducing regulations related to dietary norms, nutrition, and preventive measures. Moreover, they can establish training for the public, which can increase the population’s awareness of the causes and effects of obesity. It is possible to say that each of the presented parties can contribute to decreasing the number of individuals affected by the disease significantly.

Policy Proposals and Institutional Barriers

The policy proposals that can be suggested include the following ones:

  • Developing interventions aimed at preventing the prevalence of obesity and targeted at the populations at risk, including free health check-ups or extended access to care.
  • They are defining obesity as a chronic condition, which means that patients living with it will need to undergo primary and secondary prevention measures of related illnesses (Hruby & Hu, 2015).
  • We are changing public perspectives on obesity, nutrition, and health by introducing educational sessions for the population and stakeholders.

The primary benefit of these proposals is that they aim at decreasing the number of individuals having obese. By implementing preventive measures, including primary and secondary ones, medical institutions can reduce related costs and improve the general health state of the population. Educating the population and stakeholders, in turn, can lead to a decrease in stigma associated with obesity and help in developing additional programs targeting the issue.

Another advantage of the proposals is that they do not require significant one-time investments and can be implemented gradually. For instance, to change public perspectives on obesity, responsible bodies can introduce educational sessions for medical professionals first and extend their audience with time. Thus, the proposals are highly beneficial for the population living with obesity.

The possible institutional berries to success include the lack of funding the government can contribute to combating the problem and poor understanding of the significance of the issue. As a result of these obstacles, national authorities may not be able to provide enough sources for those challenged by obesity. The reason for it is that they may prefer to focus on other issues due to the lack of awareness of the burden associated with the condition. However, the improvement of public knowledge about obesity can minimize the impact of barriers presented above.

Alternative Policy Strategies

At the same time, it is possible to introduce alternative policy strategies considering the existing institutional barriers. For instance, local initiatives can implement free obesity-related educational sessions aimed at targeting people at risk. During such sessions, individuals can learn about appropriate nutrition and diet, healthy behaviors that can reduce symptoms of the condition, and diagnostic measures that can be utilized.

Moreover, if there is a lack of investment from the national authorities, it is possible to provide funds for at least some groups of the population, for instance, children. Such a step can already contribute to the minimization of obesity among the population significantly. Finally, one of the other alternative policy strategies is focusing on families and considering the genetic factor instead of aiming at reducing the symptoms in one patient only. It means that if one family member shows symptoms of obesity, it is crucial to prevent the development of the condition in others, too.

Answers to Questions

One of the main questions the audience may ask is: What are the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed solutions? The advantages of the policy proposals are presented above, and the primary negative aspect is that there may be a lack of sources available to implement them. However, the modifications can be introduced gradually, and some of the policies, including alternative ones, may not require significant investments. Another possible question is: How significant is this problem compared to other issues the population of the country experiences, including poverty?

The answer is that today, obesity is one of the most acute health concerns because it can result in several severe conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, and heart diseases (Hall, do Carmo, da Silva, Wang, & Hall, 2015). It is possible to admit that obesity and poverty can be linked, as individuals may be overweight due to the reduced access to health care caused by poverty. Thus, poverty and obesity are both acute issues; however, the significance latter should not be underestimated.

Another significant question from the audience can be: How fast can the proposals presented above be implemented at the national level? It depends on various factors, including the readiness of local and national authorities to participate in the implementation. However, it is crucial to note that even by introducing some of the changes, responsible bodies can ensure the reduced prevalence of obesity among the population or the increased awareness of it. It is vital to implement new obesity-related policies at least partially to improve the health state of the country’s population.

Conclusion

The report reveals that obesity is a crucial concern affecting the population of the United States highly. The significance of the issue is determined by the fact that the prevalence of the condition among children and adults has increased within the past three decades and continues to grow. Although some national programs addressing obesity, including WIC, exist, it is crucial to develop policies aimed at minimizing the prevalence of the condition and its effects on the population.

Some of the policies that can be suggested include developing interventions aimed at preventing the symptoms of obesity and minimizing their outcomes, changing public perspectives of the illness, and defining it as a chronic condition. These policies can be implemented gradually, which can already contribute to the reduction in the prevalence of the disease. Alternative policy strategies may include implementing free obesity-related training sessions for groups at risk, providing funds for at least some groups of affected individuals, and focusing on families and considering the genetic factor. Such alternatives can have a positive effect on reducing obesity among the population, too.

References

Hall, J. E., do Carmo, J. M., da Silva, A. A., Wang, Z., & Hall, M. E. (2015). Obesity-induced hypertension: Interaction of neurohumoral and renal mechanisms. Circulation Research, 116(6), 991-1006.

Hruby, A., & Hu, F. B. (2015). The epidemiology of obesity: A big picture. Pharmacoeconomics, 33(7), 673-689.

Lind, L., Lind, P. M., Lejonklou, M. H., Dunder, L., Bergman, Å., Guerrero-Bosagna, C.,… Pak, Y. K. (2016). Uppsala consensus statement on environmental contaminants and the global obesity epidemic. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(5), 81-83.

Musich, S., MacLeod, S., Bhattarai, G. R., Wang, S. S., Hawkins, K., Bottone Jr, F. G., & Yeh, C. S. (2016). The impact of obesity on health care utilization and expenditures in a Medicare supplement population. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 2. Web.

Phelan, S. M., Burgess, D. J., Yeazel, M. W., Hellerstedt, W. L., Griffin, J. M., & van Ryn, M. (2015). Impact of weight bias and stigma on quality of care and outcomes for patients with obesity. Obesity Reviews, 16(4), 319-326.

Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). (2018). The state of obesity: Better policies for a healthier America. Web.

Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). (2019). The state of obesity: Better policies for a healthier America. Web.