Poverty and Obesity

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Category: Obesity
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It is a known fact that the individual exert influences on the environment and vice versa. However, no man is an Island and as such, these influences reflect through various levels of social and interpersonal relationships. The social environment of the individual include interaction with peers, friend and family members, through such mechanism as role modeling, social support and social norms (Mary, Karen, Ramona, Karen .Annu. Rev. Public Health 2008.Creating Healthy food and Eating Environments, para 2). The physical environment includes settings where people eat or procure food such as the home, work, school, Restaurants and supermarket. The physical settings in the community influence which food to eat and what barriers are preventing healthy eating habits (Mary, et al.Annu. Rev. Public Health 2008.Creating Healthy food and Eating Environments, para 2).

Also important are the macro- level environmental factors which play a more distal and indirect role. These factors include Government and its policies, Food marketing and media, Food assistance programs, food production and distribution systems etc. Specific impact of Social and environmental factors; The Philadelphia experience. Social Network factor People with mutual interest tend to attract one another, hence as observed by Koehly & loscalzo, adolescent friendships tended to cluster based on weight status (2009). This further promotes the un-healthy habits. The family constitutes a huge part of the social network.

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Children would naturally follow the lead of behaviors of their parents and influential family members (role modeling). This role model effect of behavior is further supported by the fact that parental intake of healthy food (fruit and vegetables) has been associated with food and vegetables intake among youth, and may be the strongest predictor of consumption of fruit and vegetable among children (Boehmer, Brownson,Haire-Joshu. 2004). Philadelphians drink approximately 60 million gallons of Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) annually. Multiple studies have linked obesity with increased intake of SSBs (Brownell K. 2009). Based on this consumption by the adults; it automatically becomes a norm and a standard in the society.

Thus affecting the taste of preference of the children for the rest of their lives. Physical Environmental Factors/Settings This pertains to the availability of healthy foods in the home, work, school or any other settings around the individual. Factors like access, availability, barriers and opportunity determine the possibility of obtaining healthy food and preventing obesity. Also very important are the issues relating to proximity to healthy food, pricing and transit (Sarah. The Washington Post, 2012. Will Philadelphia’s experiment in eradicating “food desert” work? Para 25). According to the Public health management corporation survey, one quarter of children do not get enough physical activity and nearly half of the adults exercise less than 3 times per week, (2008).The high incidence of crime in the neighborhood has also discouraged out door physical activity due to unsafe environment.

In addition, the Auto-based planning of the area shifting new development to the outskirts have encouraged more driving and less activity. Macro-Level Environments Although the Government have had passed the school wellness policy, which went into effect in 2007, to encourage healthy eating habits in schools that get reimbursement from the Government in their school nutrition program. Preliminary data showed mixed result in terms of compliance and implementation of the policies in schools across the country. Another Macro- environmental factor worth mentioning is the impact of the electronic media in promoting SSBs and un-healthy foods. Because most un-healthy foods are very calorie dense and you get more calories from them per unit grams. People end up consuming a lot of it and they are relatively cheaper than healthy foods.

Hence its appeal to the poor and indigent. While the SSBs serving have become larger over the past 15 years, targeted advertising to low-income and minority communities have also increased. (Brownell. 2009). Get Healthy Philly Initiative This seeks to counter the obesity disease rate in Philadelphia by providing incentives to corner shops and Grocery stores to encourage sale of Healthy fruits and vegetables. Direct assistance like provision of fridges to store produce and connecting them to wholesalers is also involved. It is also working with schools to help improve nutrition and helping neighborhood farmers markets.

About four in 10 of the U.S adult population is obese or overweight and Philadelphia’s rate of obesity surpasses the National average of 39.8% in adults and 18.5% in youths. In order to halt this endemic health situation the City had embarked on several intervention programs to counter and reduce the trend.

In this paper, I will analyze two interventions in Philadelphia to decrease the growing of residents with obesity.

The Philadelphia’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) aims to decrease prevalence, incidence, obesity-related morbidity, and mortality by:

  1. Increasing access to healthy, affordable foods
  2. Decrease the availability for nutrient poor, calorie dense foods
  3. Enhance opportunities for safe, structured physical activity

The two interventions, which will be discussed in this paper used to combat the issue of obesity in Philadelphia, include:

  1. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which engaged 1000 small corner stores across the city to sell nutritious foods
  2. School Wellness Councils, which h aimed to eliminate unhealthy competitive foods from 200 schools

Obesity is one of the three biggest public health issue in the United States. According to the CDC, in 2016, 36 states had an obesity rate of at least 28 percent, with 12 states reporting an obesity rate of more than 30 percent. These figures compares poorly to 1990, not one U.S state had an obesity rate greater than 14 percent. More than one third of adults and 17 percent of youth were obese as at 2010 (Cynthia, Margaret, Brian 2012). Putting the National average at about 39.8%.

Philadelphia, which is home to more than 1.5 million residents, is tackling obesity and tobacco use throughout the community. Approximately 67.9% of adults in the city and approximately 41% of youth aged 6-17 are overweight or obese. Additionally, nearly 70% of youth in North Philadelphia, the majority of whom are black or Hispanic, are overweight or obese, which is nearly double the obesity and overweight rate for youth in the United States. Fruit and vegetable consumption is a challenge for residents, with nearly 25% of youth and 30% of adults getting only one serving or less per day. Further, approximately 25% of youth do not get sustained physical activity even once a week. In addition to obesity-prevention efforts aimed at the community’s entire population, certain initiatives target these high-risk groups.

In Philadelphia, the prevalence of obesity is well above the National average and since the year 2000, approximately 24,000 Philadelphians have died from diseases caused by poor diet and physical inactivity (Mokdad 2004). The impact of obesity on health stems from the fact that it is a well-documented risk factor for heart disease, many forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes. It also leads to an economic set back as obesity related expenditures totaled $147 billion in 2008. (Finkelstein, Trogdon, Cohen, Dietz, 2009). In addition, there has been a lot of socio economic and racial disparity in the distribution of obesity, with a higher prevalence among the Poor, indigent minority population. (Public health Management Corporation, 2008). Philadelphia has the highest obesity and poorest population of America’s big cities.

  • The Healthy Corner Store Initiative: In order to revitalize environments this dangerous trend, Philadelphia has embarked on an intervention called the “Get Healthy Philly initiative”. The city had recruited 632 corner stores to supply them with New Fridges to store produce of fresh fruits and vegetables, while also stocking the stores with alternative healthy snacks.
  • School Wellness Councils: It is also working with schools to help improve nutrition and helping neighborhood farmers markets. This helps to encourage healthy eating habits in schools that get reimbursement from the Government in their school nutrition program.

These programs are very good in that they focus on the root cause of the problem but like every other intervention it comes with its drawbacks and commendable attributes.


Commendable Attribute of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative

Root cause Approach: This approach is highly commendable because it seeks to tackle the problem from its origin/root. Considering the overwhelming evidences, that obesity is the root cause of many cardiovascular diseases. Just as the goal by the Obama Administration is to eradicate “food deserts” in 2017. Novel and relevant with Presence of re-evaluation mechanisms. It is also a unique intervention as no other active intervention or study have tried to study the causal relationship between obesity and availability of healthy food in the neighborhood. Most of the evidences have been retrospective analysis and data review, which are less credible in the eyes of scientists and policy makers. The intervention seeks to measure what people bought before and after the availability of healthy foods as to determine if the intervention is effective. This re-evaluation of intervention with a time line helps to determine its effectiveness and way forward.

Get Healthy Philly Initiative Draw Backs

Questioned Theory: The theory of the Initiative is not based on sound practice. This is because multiple studies have looked at retrospective data at the state and national level to find a causal relationship between weight and access to healthy food. None was found. (Sarah, The Washington Post, 2012. Will Philadelphia’s experiment in eradicating “food desert” work? Para. 10). A lot of Analysts and pundits have expressed their doubt on the possibility of its success because a sound intervention/practice should be based on a sound theory likewise; a sound theory should also be based on sound practice/precedence (Karen, Barbara, Viswanath, 2008, p 7).

Need for further consideration of Profitability of the Grocery owners; there is the need to give further incentives to the Grocery owners. I feel it is not enough to supply them fridges and connect them to wholesalers. At the end of the day, they are in the business to make profit and there is more profit in the sale of un-healthy foods. For this reason, the sustainability of their participation is questionable and in doubt.

Assessment of needs for a more comprehensive approach: Given the continuous growth in the percentage of obese individuals over the years despite these policies. It is therefore obvious that more needs to be done to effectively curb the growing trend of obesity and its consequences in Philadelphia.

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My emphasis will be on the macro-level environmental impact of the Government. I believe many solution lies with the Government. Taking a cue from the ban of smoking indoors and in public places among other measures, we have subsequently experienced a reduction in smoking. The Government’s agricultural policy should be geared towards encouraging farmers to produce healthy foods and vegetables. The present Government agricultural policy which encourages massive production of cereals and corn used in sweeteners (high fructose corn Syrup) further encourages unhealthy eating habits. (Mary, Karen, Ramona, Karen . Annu. Rev. Public Health 2008.Creating Healthy food and Eating Environments, para 10).

I will also suggest the Government grants Grocery owners some tax breaks and tax credits if they sell a certain amount of fruits and vegetable in a Fiscal year. This will help offset some of the cost of loss made due to the highly perishable nature of fruits and vegetables. In addition, various poverty alleviation programs should be put in place. So far we have identified that poverty is a major problem which has been linked to obesity and other adverse conditions. Conclusion The problem of obesity is a complicated one, requiring a multi-dimensional approach to finding a solution. The solution does not lie in any one sphere of the ecological framework determinants of health. All sphere of the ecological framework must be actively involved in its prevention; the individual, social environment, physical environment and the macro-level environment.


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Poverty and Obesity. (2021, Apr 16). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/poverty-and-obesity/