In the past 30 years, the rates of childhood obesity have grown threefold. In Australia, for example, an estimate of 28% of the children and adolescents are either obese or overweight (Shah, Diwan, Rao, Bhabhor, Gokhle, & Mehta, 2008). The rates are even higher in certain groups like the Torres Strait Islander peoples and Aboriginals. School going children with obesity face a lot of challenges and are exposed to many vulnerabilities. It takes a toll both on their mental and physical health. Besides, there are also some limitations and inequalities they are exposed to, and discriminations in their surroundings. Bullying is a significant challenge facing school-going children with obesity. Being overweight and maintaining the status quo increases the chances of individuals developing medical complications such as the increasing rates of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents (Shah et al., 2008). Sleep apnoea, tiredness, heat intolerance, and breathlessness on action are another problem that obese children face.
Social Determinants of Health and Their Impacts on the Population
Obese children are significantly impacted by the social determinants of health (SDOH). SDOH are the situations in which people are born, live, grow up, and age, and the systems that are put in place to deal with this type of health condition (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). One of such determinants is the diet. The food environment of a child is very critical, and parents have a significant influence on the type and choice of food consumed by their children. Children of obese parents who were obese during childhood have high exposure to obesity risks. Another social determinant affecting this population is physical activities. There have been significant shifts in the patterns of childhood activities, where the children are shifting from outdoor entertainment to indoor ones like video games, internet, and televisions. Socioeconomic status (SES) also impacts the obese population. The poor people in Australia are vulnerable to obesity due to poor diets and decreased physical activity (Valery, Ibiebele, Harris, Green, Cotterill, Moloney & Garvey, 2012). The rich in urban sectors are also vulnerable due to the propensity to adopt the western type of lifestyle.
There are several immediate adverse health outcomes associated with childhood obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetic glucose levels. The condition also has a linkage with long term adverse health outcomes such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Moreover, childhood obesity, in most cases, is strongly related to the persistence of obesity when one grows to become an adult. A disproportionate percentage of ethnic or racial minority children in Australia are obese, and according to the current research, such disparities in childhood obesity linked to ethnicity or race are inspired by the disparities in socioeconomic status. Children from families with low socioeconomic status are almost twice likely to experience obesity than those from high socioeconomic status. In terms of healthy life expectancy, obesity knocks off 20 years of good health from the life of the victim, and it can also speed up death by eight years (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). Obesity in children increases the likeliness of adult mortality and morbidity. Both men and women who were obese in their childhood have increased chances of colon cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Shah et al., 2008). Most of the obese children are exposed to at least one adversity, such as peer victimization, abuse, maltreatment. There are also high cases of obesity bullying in schools for children with obesity. There is a strong relationship between bullying and obesity. There is a frequent targeting of overweight children for bullying at schools, while there are also rare cases where they are the ones who bully others. Obese kids are often targets of bullying since society is both actively and discreetly disapproving of obesity. An obese child could have all the other traits and skills that should discourage bullyings, such as academic capability and good social skills, but they would still end up being bullied.
Health inequities are the systematic differences in health that could otherwise be prevented through appropriate policy intervention and are therefore seen as being unjust and unfair. Health inequities are not restricted to access to healthcare services. However, other factors are related to the working and living conditions, and the general macro policies dominating in a given region or country. Australia experiences an increasing social gradient in health. The differences in life expectancy at birth are 7 and 10 years for women and men, respectively, between the highest and the lowest socioeconomic groups (Shah et al., 2008). World Health Organization report in the Charter on counteracting obesity claimed that obesity and overweight mostly affect the lower socioeconomic groups, and as a result, it contributes to the health and other inequality issues widening. There is an emphasis on the variations in health-related behaviors like the quality of nutrition, obesity prevalence, and level of physical activity in line with the socioeconomic factors across and within countries (Valery et al., 2012). According to the European parliament, they put significant emphasis on countering the socioeconomic aspects like obesity by considering an essential element of measure to counter the inequalities in health. Member states are called forth through the resolution to enhance good nutrition and physical activity through access to programs aiming at obesity prevention. More specifically, in areas where the cases of obesity are prevalent.
Health Outcomes of Obesity
There are far-ranging adverse effects associated with obesity, and each year. Some of the health effects that are associated with obesity include but not limited to, the following. High blood pressure - obesity means there is an additional fat tissue in the body, and this creates the need for more nutrients and oxygen to live, and more blood vessels are therefore needed to pump blood to all the blood tissues. The workload of the heart is increased in the process since ore blood must be pumped to the additional vessels. That creates more pressure on the artery walls leading to increased blood pressure. Diabetes - the primary cause of type2 diabetes is obesity (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). This type of diabetes was known to begin in adulthood but is currently also occurs in children. Obesity resists insulin, which is the hormone regulating blood sugar; hence, the blood sugar becomes elevated, increasing the risk of diabetes. Heart disease - hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, is ten times likely to be present in obese people than it is in those who are not obese. That is the same case with coronary artery disease because of the fatty deposits in the arteries supplying blood to the heart. Heart attack or chest pain results from the reduced blood flow to the heart due to the narrowed arteries. Cancer - being overweight in women increases the exposure to various cancer types like colon, breast, uterus, and gallbladder cancers. In men, it increases the chances of getting prostate and colon cancers (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). Psychosocial effects - there are cultures where being overly thin is the ideal physical attractiveness, and this disadvantages the obese and those who are overweight. They are often blamed for their conditions with claims that they are weak-willed and lazy.
One Specific Health Disparity Impacting This Population
There is recent evidence suggesting that minority children with obese conditions experience health disparities concerning healthcare access and the quality of services if any. Australia national studies have shown disparities among the children with obesity in terms of insurance coverage, health status, and parental satisfaction with the care offered to them in the health care facilities (Rabbitt & Coyne, 2012). Given that obese children experience health disparities concerning the quality of health care services and access to health care, there are significant consequences that can be withdrawn from this. Interventions for the treatment and prevention of obesity should be focused on the school-going children age 5-14 years since they are the most vulnerable to the disparities in health care access and services. There should be an implementation of efforts aimed at integrating tailored and culturally targeted program elements as part of the standard health care services. Another major cause of health care disparities among the obese if the difference in socioeconomic status, and while developing the long-term sustainable approaches for the treatment and prevention of obesity in children, this should be at the forefront among the major considerations.
Prevalent Relevant Evidence on the Existence of Health Disparities
There is enough evidence on health disparities for the obese in Australia. A large body of evidence exists on the prevention of obesity in adults and school-aged children; there is very little focus on the younger age groups. This indicates the disparity and health negligence of obese children. Besides, most of the parents confess not being concerned whether their children were obese or not and that in cases where the children deemed overweight, they assumed that was just as a result of "puppy fat." Most of the prevention programs for childhood obesity aim at shaping the foods eaten by children and their activity habits, and this implies that major focusses are on older children, and not the age group of the population presented above (Magnusson, 2010). Young children have little to no control over their diets and physical activities, and instead, it is the responsibility of health care centers and parents to determine whether they are overweight or not. As a result, most of the obesity policy proposals and prevention programs are not particularly relevant to school-ages obese children.
Several studies have measured the prevalence of obesity and overweight in young Australian children, and the most recent data were collected in 2007 by the Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (Valery et al., 2012). The University of South Australia conducted this research in conjunction with the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization. In the survey, they measured the weight, height, and Body Mass Index of 200 children aged between 2-8 years. However, since the focus of this paper is on the age bracket of 5-14, we will use the data for the ages 5-8, which are available from this study. In the table below, it shows that 15% of the girls and 13% of the boys aged 4-8 years were overweight, while in the same age bracket, 5% of boys and 6% of girls were obese (Boxall, 2009).
4-8-year-old boys 13% 5%
4-8-year-old girls 15% 6%
From this study, it is evident that health care services are not sufficient to address obesity issues. The population health approach is essential in addressing obesity complexities, but there is a need as well to extend the remit of health services beyond medical treatment and incorporate prevention of obesity through screening and referral (Magnusson, 2010).
The Impacts on Health
Obese people are discriminated against in society. Some of the discriminations are economical, others are social discrimination by others, and there are also cultural factors affecting them. However, the lack of health care services available for this specific group of people is a significant negative experie...
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