Obesity Prevalence Study in Clark County, Washington

Background Information

The current global projections by the World Health Organization on the trend of obesity indicates that more than 3 billion peoples would be overweight by the year 2015 while childhood overweight is now considered by the body as the “most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” (WHO.com). The malady of obesity in the larger population is a real threat that no longer affects low-income families alone but is more increasingly occurring in middle-income families.

This means that a significant proportion of people, especially children, are at the risk of becoming obese. The WHO estimates that 42 million children who are under five years of age worldwide are obese, 90% of this children will remain obese in their adult life and will constantly be dogged by various diseases such as cardiovascular and high blood pressure condition, which are normally triggered by the presence of obesity (WHO, com).

In an article appearing today in Times magazine, the cost of obesity to the economy is estimated to be as much as “$73.1 billion as a result of an obese workforce” (Melnick). To a very large extent, the highest proportion of adults with obesity are those who developed it when they were young, which makes it paramount and crucial to address the issue of obesity in youths rather than in adults. This estimate does not even address all the associated costs that are incurred as a result of the condition; most costly is the fact that obesity is considered a risk factor for several arrays of diseases that could easily be avoided by just losing weight. Indeed many research studies have identified a causal association between being overweight and diseases such as cardiovascular-related disease and diabetes (CDC.com).

Besides this factor, the cost incurred by the government in addressing the issue of overweight has become daunting since it complicates the need to reduce the health allocation budgets ((Melnick). Finally, since many people who are overweight are generally not happy with their conditions, reducing weight would have other benefits such as contributing to happy families and reduced stress levels.

Clark County, which is the focus of my study, has traditionally experienced high prevalence rates of obesity that are proportionally higher than other similar County’s among the youths. Over the recent past, the prevalence rate of obesity among adults at Clark County has been increasing at an alarming rate; in 1996, 16% percent of adults were obese, a figure that has increased to 25% by 2006 (Clark County.com).

This represents a prevalence rate increase of 1% every year; based on this trend; the projection is that Washington State and Clark County will not have achieved the visionary national obesity prevalence rate that is capped at 15% for all state if nothing is done to address the problem (Clark County.com). Over the same period, overweight, a precursor to obesity, increased within the County at a rate of 38% in adults and 25% among children (Clark County.com).

The root causes of the high prevalence rates of obesity in Clark County are due to two interrelated factors; lack of health education and lack of appropriate care by the parents. The parents, for instance, are always busy taking care of their kids. The kids have, therefore, opted for poor eating habits. Clark County also lacks in civic education necessary to help and enhance the eating habits of its people. This has brought a wave of detrimental results in terms of healthy eating in the County. It is on this basis that I, therefore, wish to instigate a research study that would generate more knowledge on the subject of obesity, which would enable effective interventions to be structured around the unique circumstances of youths with obesity conditions in this County.

Objectives

The objectives of this study are three-fold; identify the extent of the problem and causal factors among the youths within the County, identify effective interventions that could be implemented to address the problem of obesity in youths, and analyze the weakness of the existing interventions that are currently used to address the problem. The first objective of identifying the extent of the problem will enable me to quantify the problem as well as determine the causal factors of obesity among the population, which will form a basis for structuring effective health interventions.

The second objective is the primary reason for conducting this research study since, in this case, I will be exploring and suggesting health intervention strategies that will work as evidenced by the analysis of data collected from the study. Finally, the third objective will be a review and assessment of existing strategies that are aimed at reducing obesity among the youths and why they have been ineffective.

Literature Review

Overview

Obesity refers to a medical condition whereby a person’s body structure is made up of excessive body fats to the extent that it is detrimental to their health. More generally, obesity and overweight are defined the same way as conditions where a person’s body fats are above normal levels (Chen). The official definition of WHO states that “obesity is a condition where a person has abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health” (WHO.com). The scientific approach of determining obesity in a person is the Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio index that compares a person’s weight against their height in order to arrive at a numerical figure that is used to determine if a person is obese or not (Chen).

The WHO obesity framework categorizes and defines obesity and overweight differently; a person is defined as overweight if their BMI figure exceeds 24, beyond 29, the official definition of the condition becomes obesity (WHO.com). Nevertheless, numerous research findings indicate that risk factors of diseases associated with obesity tend to significantly increase among persons that have a BMI of 21 and above. Generally, obesity is categorized into three groups: class I obesity, class II obesity, and class III obesity (MediLexicon.com). Class, I obesity is for individuals within the range of 30-34 BMI, Class II obesity for persons between 35-40, while Class III is for persons with BMI figure that is above 40 and the most serious of all (MediLexicon.com).

Causal Factors: Obesity

The major cause that is attributed to the high rate of obesity prevalence in the world today is mainly because of lifestyle changes. The term lifestyle, when used in this context, describes a particular way of living based on two forms of determinants; types of food eaten and physical activeness (Kim and Willis). One of the major factors that are attributed to overweight in both adults and children is dietary intake of food that are high in fats, sugars, and carbohydrates; more than the maximum amounts that the body requires for its sustenance. When high diets of fats, carbohydrates, and sugars are consistently taken over time, the result is an accumulation of energy that is stored in the form of fats within a person’s body leading to excessive weight (Kims and Willis).

Lack of exercise is not a cause of obesity per se; rather, it is a confounding factor that accelerates the process of obesity, given that the body is not actively utilizing the excess energy that is stored in the form of body fats. However, recent research findings indicate that the cause of obesity or overweight, in that case, is hardly limited to the two factors mentioned above; obesity is now also determined to be influenced by a person’s genetic makeup, frequency of eating, rate of metabolism, medications, psychological factors and certain diseases all of which varies among different people (Mitchell, Padwal, Chuck and Klarenbach).

Regardless of the amount of food intake that a person consumes, the frequency of eating has been determined to be a causative factor of obesity in general. Whereas this factor is not yet clearly understood, most research studies attribute the phenomenon to the metabolism process of cholesterol and insulin, which are the two major agents that determine the accumulation of fats in the body (MedlinePlus.com). As a matter of fact, it has been observed that when small meals are taken several times a day, there are less insulin and cholesterol levels in the blood system compared to when only one large meal is taken (Mitchell et al.)—thereby verifying the significance of frequency of food intake to the outcome of obesity.

A closely related factor to the frequency of food intake pertains to the type of food eaten; in fact, this is perhaps the leading causative factor of obesity when all other conditions are equal (MedlinePlus.com). For instance, french-fries, when eaten regularly, are known to significantly contribute to overweight; in addition, they adversely affect a person’s health in general (MedlinePlus.com).

Carbonated soft drink has also been linked to overweight due to their high sugar content; all soft drinks are produced using a type of artificial sugar called acetamide, which is also now linked by recent research studies as the cause of certain types of cancerous diseases (Mitchell et al.). Most burgers, fried potatoes, doughnuts, hot dogs, and most of the baked foods are just examples of other food types that are associated with overweight due to their high cholesterol, carbohydrates, and sugar content.

The predisposition of a person to become overweight is also caused by genetic factors. This is because obesity is actually linked to the genetic makeup of an individual through leptin deficiency; this is a hormone that is essential in weight regulation that functions by signaling the brain when more calorie intake is required or vice versa (Balentine and Mathur). Hence, deficiency of leptin among obese persons is a documented common characteristic that makes them unable to control their food intake, thereby leading to their obese condition. Other factors that are known to contribute to weight gain are certain medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, including most diabetic medications, which are known to induce weight gain through side effects (MediLexicon.com).

Risk Factors

Many research studies indicate a strong causal association of obesity with several chronic and serious types of diseases, notably obesity and cardiovascular diseases. It is, therefore, not surprising that it is one of the major causes of death in the world. Obesity leads to increased chances of developing heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, as well as other health problems. The presence of obesity alone predisposes someone to an array of not less than ten disease conditions that range from cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure to hypertension.

There are four broad categories of disease conditions that are directly linked to obese conditions: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and specific types of cancers (Chen).

Obesity Management

Needless to say, prevention and management of obesity is the only way that can effectively reduce morbidity rates for most of these other related diseases. Since obesity is largely a factor of three key determinants; food intake, type of diet, and level of physical activity, any form of intervention must be structured along with these determinants. A comprehensive strategy of dealing with challenges associated with overweight and obese conditions are contained in a resolution adopted in 2004 by the World Health Assembly titled the “WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” (WHO.com).

The focus of this resolution is on two key areas; it emphasizes the need for healthy diets to people and promotes engagement in physical activity (WHO.com). This resolution serves an additional function of complementing a similar framework adopted by WHO that is focused on the prevention and management of chronic diseases in general, given that obesity is a key determinant factor in this case as well.

In practical terms, activities that are necessary to achieve reduced obesity prevalence and consequently lower the rate of chronic disease include reducing intake of particular types of foods, especially that have high contents of fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. Increase food consumption with high nutritional values of vitamins such as vegetables and fruits, regular water intake, and heightened physical activity for at least half an hour each day.

Methods

I propose to conduct this research study on two levels; primary research and secondary research. Primary research will involve the collection of data through questionnaires from the target group who, in this case, include youths, parents, and teachers. I will use random sampling in selecting cases from the larger population from whom to interview, which I estimate to be 1000 cases, 500 parents, and a sample of 50 schools. The idea is to collect data from these three levels and compare them in order to meet my objectives; this approach will enable me to identify common factors across the platform that triggers or inhibits the occurrence of obesity among youths in this region.

Secondary research will enable me to compare findings with previous research studies done on the same subjects, which I have summarized above. The equipment that I will need for this research is desktops, transport, weighing and height machine, questionnaire forms, and ten research assistants to help me administer questionnaires and collect data for the whole period while I will personally analyze the data using SPSS software.

The table below details the expected expenses that I anticipate the research study will cost during the seven-week duration of the study. Note the actual days of the research study are 49.

Works Cited

Chen, H. Diseases and Conditions: Obesity, 2008. Web.

Balentine, J. & Mathur, R. Obesity: Causes and Risk Factors. 2010. Web.

CDC.com. Tobacco Use and Pregnancy, 2009. Web.

Clark County.com. “Community Assessment, Planning, and Evaluation: Quantitative Health Assessment Report” Clark County Public Health. 2009. Web.

Kim S., Willis L.,. Talking About Obesity: News Framing of who is Responsible for Causing and Fixing the Problem. J Health Communic, 12.1 (2007): pp 359–376. Print.

Melnick, M. “Study: Obese Workers Cost Employers $73 Billion Per Year”, Time Magazine. 2010. Web.

MediLexicon.com. What is Obesity, 2010. Web.

Mitchell, J., Padwal, R., Chuck, A. & Klarenbach, C.,. Cancer Screening among the Overweight and Obese in Canada. Am J Prev Med, 35.1 (200): pp 127–132. Print.

WHO.com. Obesity and Overweight: What are Obesity and Overweight?. 2010. Web.