Obesity in Australian Children Aged 6- Essay Example

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Obesity in Australian Children Aged 6-17

Obesity in Australian Children Aged 6-17

1.0 Introduction

Obesity among children aged is a worrying trend in Australia. The concern is based on the fact that a healthy population is integral in the development of a country’s economy. The concern is that obesity at childhood stage is likely to continue into adulthood obesity in future. For instance, it is estimated that 80% of overweight adolescents are at a higher risk of becoming overweight adults (Ahmed et al., 2010). Additional, from a social perspective an individual who is overweight and obese can be subjected to social stigmatisation, exclusion and thus affecting ones confidence and social network. The aim of this paper is to outline obesity in Australian children aged 6-17.

2.0 Definition of the Issue/ Condition

Obesity is conceptualised as a medical condition where one has excess body fat that can impair the ones health. Obesity in individual is usually measured in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI). In this regard, the weight of an individual in kilogram is divided by the square of her or his height in meter. As such, when one has a BMI greater than or equal to 25 he or she qualifies to be termed as overweight while if an individual has a BMI that is greater than or equal to 30, he or she is considered to be obese (World Health Organisation, 2013). From the above conceptualisation, it implies that an obese person has weight that is not medically healthy for his or her height.

According to Nammi et al. (2004, p.2 and 3), the disease is considered as a multifaceted heterogeneous agglomeration of conditions with numerous causes. All these causes are considered as obese phenotype. First, development of obesity in an individual is tied to functions such as genetic, metabolism and neural frameworks. Secondly, behaviour, food habits, physical activity and socio-cultural factors determines the level of vulnerability. Principal to the emergence of this medical condition is tied to the situation where there is imbalance between energy consumed and the one used (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2012; Nammi et al., 2004, p.2).

3.0 Prevalence Patterns

Better Health Channel (2012, p.1) offers an alrming figures by noting that one in five children and adolescents are obse or overweight. Additionally, they observe that quarter of Australian children can be considered as overweight or obese. As per the 2009 figures by the Australian Bureaus of Statistics, there were about 600, 000 children who fell within the age bracket of 5-17 who are either overweight or obese. In comparative terms along gender/ sex, National Health Survey noted that 24.9% of those aged 5-17 are overweight or obese. Along the gender line, statistics by National Health Survey indicated that 2.8% of boys aged between 5-17 years are either obese or overweight. On the other hand, they note that 24% of the girls within the same age bracket are obese (Australian Department of Health and Ageing, 2010). Such kind of statistics is alarming as it shows that most female within the age bracket under consideration are affected by obesity. This then calls for a proactive public health policy specifically geared towards girls.

As for comparisons along annual statistics, National Health Survey 07/08 cited in Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) indicates that the proportion of boys aged 5-17 with obesity increased two fold. Within this timeline, the boys with obesity moved to 10% in 2007/08 as compared to 5% in the year 1995. For the females, during the same period their statistics didn’t change. This shows that number of boys getting obesity is increasing and thus, there should be deliberate public health policy to check on this upsurge. In a normative perspective, they should have retained the same figures or it should have gown down if the public health policies are effective implemented. Better Health Channel (2012, p.1) notes that by 2020, 65 % of young Australians will be obese or overweight.

4.0 Levels of Prevention

Nammi et al. (2004, p.4) that prevention of obesity involves a three tier approach. These levels include primary level, secondary level and tertiary level. In this regard, they note that the ultimate aim of primary prevention level is to curtail the number of new cases by ensuring that those who are not obese do not graduate to be one. For secondary level approach, the concern is to reduce the rate of established cases in the community by ensuring that those who are already obese are treated through various means to come back to normalcy. Lastly, the tertiary level is geared towards stabilisation or reduction of the amount of disability associated with obesity.

Story (1999, p.43 and 44); Angela (2013) note that primary intervention entails placing mechanisms of prevention prior to the illness occurring in the whole population or those who are highly vulnerable. Such approach entails promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviours that would ensure one maintains normal weight. Having policies that cajole people to practice good nutrition and ensuring regular physical activity as means of expending calories. On the other hand secondary intervention entails early identification of the obesity before in graduates to extreme condition. These include physical activity, dietary intake and behaviour change. Lastly, the tertiary level involves medical intervention approaches such as pharmacotherapy and surgery.

5.0 Health Promotion Campaigns

In Australia, most promotional campaigns revolve around two themes. These include healthy eating behaviours/ nutritional campaigns and need for regular physical activities. These campaigns target individuals and public at local and community level. Australian Government through the Department of Health and Ageing (2013) launched a program known as ‘a healthy and active Australia’. Through this initiative, the government has developed resource materials that can be used to promote healthy life styles so as to address obesity. These include get set 4 life: habits for healthy kids, healthy spaces & places, learning from successful community obesity initiative and healthy weight information & resources.

The other campaign by Federal Government was dubbed ‘Swap It, Don’t Stop It’. This was a four year print, television and radio campaign which consumed $ 41 million cajoling people to adopt healthier eating options instead of junk foods. The campaign helped in creating awareness and attitude towards healthy life style (Whyte, 2012). For instance at the state level, the State of Western Australia through their Health Department in June 24, 2012 launched a campaign dubbed Live Lighter which seeks to encourage her residents to lead healthier lifestyles my reviewing the food they consume.

6.0 Prevention Strategies

There are various public health initiatives/ strategies that have been launched so as to help curtail the prevalence of obesity. Most of these are implemented at the primary and secondary level of prevention. In Australia, Biopsychosocial Model of Health has been adopted. The approach takes into consideration all determinants of health and disease. The concept accepts integration of biological, psychological and social factors in the assessment, prevention and treatment of a disease (Havelka, Lucanin & Lucanin, 2009, p.303). Public health prevention mechanisms targets a community and not individual. These prevention mechanisms can be regulatory or they can be those that target behaviour change in terms of healthy eating habits, ensuring an environment both natural and built that is not obesity friendly, collaboration with industries such as restaurants & food manufacturing firms in production of healthy foods and encouragement of physical activities (Walls et al., 2011).

4.1 Physical Activity

One of the policy that has been stressed on as a public health approach towards preventing obesity is engagement of children in physical activity. Nammi et al. (2004, p.5) notes regular exercise makes one expend energy and thus burn extra calories that can contribute to one being obese. Physical exercises which include warm up exercises followed by cool down sessions have been to be integral in reduction of abdominal fat, prevent loss of muscle and increase cardio vascular fitness.

4.2 Promotion of Healthy Eating Habits

According to Blom-Hoffman (2004), a bad eating habit that is concentrated on consumption of junk foods is one of causes of child obesity. Such habits include overconsumption of calories and intake of fats. Studies have showed a positive correlation between fast food use among adolescents and a high prevalence rate of obesity among them (Kiess, Marcus & Wabitsch, 2004, p.98). The principal view is that junk food contributes to high energy in yet this energy is not expended. To overcome this, various levels of government in Australia through public health have embarked on campaigns and public health policies that will help curtail the above said problem. For instance, there is call for fast food joints such as McDonalds to produce healthy food by giving vegetables, reducing salt and fats in the food. Such collaborations have been extended to schools and employment areas so that they offer healthy menu (Story, 1999, p.48).

4.3 Environmental Factors

The environment especially the built environment impacts on the level of physical activity one engages in. the concern is about inadequate spaces where children can expend energy. This implies that most children will be physically inactive by leading sedentary lifestyle yet they are consuming calories. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (2012) note that more than two hours a day of TV viewing on regular basis is linked to overweight and obesity. Others include over reliance on cars instead of biking or walking and modern technologies that reduces one ability to expend energy. To overcome the same, it is recommended that children between the ages of 5-18 should engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity daily (Australia Bureau of Statistics, 2009).

7.0 Nursing Roles in Prevention of Obesity

Within the community nurses can act as resource individuals who can mobilise the society to overcome the risk of being obese. Nursing/ nurses through their daily contact with public can drive the point home about strategies that reduce the risk of one being obese. These include physical activity, breast feeding, regular meals & nutrition and weight counselling. The nurses have opportunity to give information to the public, domestic various approaches to suit a local context. For instance, in US nurses are known to offer weight-related resources to the local communities. The same can be applied in Australia. At public level say at school, nurses are critical in the screening stage where those who are obese can be identified. Moreover, they can contribute to healthy eating habit intervention programme by formulating healthy menus for schools (Lazarou & Kouta, 2010, p.645).

In a nutshell, nursing has the integral role of advocating for enhanced physical activity at various government levels, affirming the role of well designed built environment such as parks so as to promote physical activity, involving families through multidisciplinary approach in helping children with obesity and making sense to parents on need to have approaches that encourages healthy eating habit and physical engagements (Lazarou & Kouta, 2010, p.646).

8.0 Conclusion

The aim of the paper was to examine a public health issue for nurses. The focus of this paper was on obesity of children aged 6-17 in Australia. To engage in this discourse, the paper first examined what obesity is. Secondly, the paper assessed the current situation and trends in Australia. Next it examined the levels of prevention which includes primary, secondary and tertiary. After this the paper analysed the various campaign programs that have been initiated so as to create awareness and change of attitude about causes of obesity and how to manage the same. Additionally, the paper examined the various prevention strategies which are mostly geared towards public health at primary level which include promotion of physical activity, healthy eating habits and well designed built environment. Lastly, the paper outlined the role of nursing/ nurses in management of obesity. the main realisation is that the nurse can act as an advocate, mobilize and a key resource individual.


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