Obesity is the accumulation and storage of excessive fat in the body. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Obesity is any weight that is bigger than what is typically considered healthy for a given height. (CDC, 2009). The imbalance between caloric consumption and expenditure is what causes obesity in children and adults. There are factors that affect obesity. Such factors are biological, behavioral, and environmental in nature. When more calories than the body is required is taken, the body stores the excess calorie in form of fat resulting in obesity.
There are daily media reporting on obesity in Los Angeles county and nationwide. Health experts utilize mass media to provide information, training and encouragement to the need to live healthy lifestyle in other to eradicate obesity. Undoubtedly, the greater concern is on the vulnerable school age children. In one annual report from by Los Angeles County (LAC) Department of Public Health (2007), the researchers found that childhood obesity is both a national and local crises.
According to the report, “Nationally, obesity rates among children have tripled since the late 1970’s, and in Los Angeles County, more than 1 in 5 students in the fifth, seventh, and ninth grades are now obese, and this continuing epidemic of childhood obesity is jeopardizing the future health and well being of our children. ” Obesity poses serious health concern for the children. The physiological and mental impact on children is enormous.
For example, children are among the most vulnerable population to suffer the effect of obesity such as low self-esteem, depression, to develop diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic conditions such as asthma, orthopedic problems, liver problems, and breathing problems during sleep due obesity. (LAC Department of Public Health, 2007). In addition, another source also remarked that childhood obesity is for the most part troubling because the extra calories often expose the children to health problems that were once confined to adults (Mayoclinic. com, 2010). This paper will not only define and describe epidemiology, but will also discuss the following; steps and methods of epidemiology, epidemiological triangle, type of epidemiology used, as well as description of the relationship of the disease to various levels of prevention, as related to childhood obesity. In the past, the term epidemiology is used to refer to the spread of diseases that were primarily infectious in origin, but now its definition and scope have
Broadened and now include, chronic diseases, mental, occupational, environmental, and other health-related events (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008). Epidemiology can therefore be defined as study of patterns of disease and illness in human populations and application use of this study to control health problems (Association of Schools of Public Health [ASPH], 2007). It is also known as the science of public health because it studies the distribution of health related s states and illnesses and associated factors at the population level.
The study can be effectively used to control and manage diseases that affect the overall population. A variety of methods can be used to carry out epidemiological investigations: Such methods as surveillance and descriptive studies can be used to study distribution. While analytical studies are used to analyze determinants. The two main methods that can be used to carry out epidemiological research are descriptive studies and analytical studies.
A descriptive study describes characteristics of group of people who suffer or does not suffer certain illnesses, and also revealing those who are at risk of developing the illness. Conversely, analytical epidemiology focuses on the determinant of health problems, and tends to establish why and how the conditions occur. However, to differentiate between the two will be difficult because analytic studies rely on descriptive comparisons, and descriptive comparisons shed light on determinants (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008).
The initial step in the epidemiologic process is to answer the “what” question by defining a health outcome, before the application of its method to determine who has the disease, and factors that influence the pattern or risk of occurrence (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008). Epidemiological studies can be used in various ways such as conducting studies of health related behaviors; investigation of relationships between social conditions and vulnerability with chronic conditions, infections, and violence; and of course, examination and researching of health services.
For example, the evaluation of progress towards meeting Healthy People 2010 goals and objectives depends on the use of epidemiologic methods (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008, p. 244). In line with the group’s topic (school age obesity in Los Angeles County), the epidemiologic method used for this study was geared towards quantifying the prevalence, and characterizing both the case group and the population from which they come.
In one of the studies, the incidence of childhood was determined by means of body mass index (BMI) measures of fifth, seventh, and ninth grader public school children (LAC Department of Public Health, 2007). Based on the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) growth chart, children were considered obese if their BMI exceed the 95th percentile of their age and gender group’s BMI (CDC, 2009). The study also considered definition of cities and communities within Los Angeles County.
As such, cities and communities that have fewer than fifty students with BMI data from California Physical Fitness Testing Program were not included. In order to track down childhood obesity in the county, LAC Department of Public Health utilized data accessed from California Department of Education’s Physical Fitness Testing Program. The researchers found that the rate of obesity in school age children have continued to rise steadily. According to the report, Los Angeles County has seen an alarming steady increase in the percentage of the children in the fifth, seventh, and ninth graders who are obese-from 18.
Percent in 1999 to 23. 3 percent in 2005 (LAC Department of Public Health, 2008, p. 1). The prevalence of school obesity in the county is noted as follows: higher among boys than the girls with 1 in 4 boys versus 1 in 5 girls; higher at lower grade levels with 26. 4 percent of children in fifth grade compared with 19. 2 percent of children in ninth grade; and, varied markedly in by racial/ethnic groups and geographical location – highest among Pacific Islanders’ 34 percent and Hispanic’s 24.
Percent, as well as highest in the South Service Area and lowest in the West Service Area, respectively. Although there is evidence that the figures have stabilized in the past two years, the percentage of children who are obese is still unacceptably high at 22. 9 percent. Another study also revealed that the prevalence of obesity in children varied significantly among cities and communities – from a low 4 percent in Manhattan Beach to a high 37 percent in Maywood, which was attributed to economic hardship (LAC Department of Public Health, 2007).
Information on birth, death, medical and health records are not available The epidemiological triangle is a model used by scientist to develop studies about health problems, the triangle allows for investigation and understanding of diseases and how they are spread. The general belief that health status is multi factorial gives us the chance to apply scientific methods in a variety of circumstances. There are three corners in the triangle and they are comprises of the host, the agent and the environment.
The carrier or human body that harbors the diseases is known as the host. The host can be influenced by many factors like age, gender, race and behavior. Any factor whether physical, chemical, or biological in nature, whose presence or relative absence is necessary in the occurrence of a disease process is the agent. The aggregate of all external conditions and influences affecting life and development in this case is known as the environment. This includes physical, biological, and socio-cultural factors that causes or partake in disease transmission.
Relative to childhood obesity, children between the age of six and fifteen years of age represents the host while the excessive calories intake from foods and beverages represents the agent. The environment may include genetic make-up, cultures, health belief, poor economic condition, lack of access to parks and green spaces, unsafe neighborhood and routes to school, and lack of availability of healthy food – just to mention these few. This study used both descriptive and analytical types of epidemiology.
The descriptive aspect of the study investigates the pattern and health events of the population, while the analytical aspect seeks to understand the determinants or influencing factors of the health event (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2008). Relative to the group’s topic, the what, who, where, when, why, and outcome were represent by obesity, children, Los Angeles County, from 1999 to 2005, excessive caloric intake, and epidemic respectively. They are all components of descriptive epidemiology.
Similarly, the gender, race, age, economic status, health belief, poor nutrition, and other determinants or influencing factors to obesity, fall under the analytical aspect of the study. From the study, we know that obesity in school age school age children has reached epidemic level in Los Angeles County; that the prevalence is higher among boys than girls; that it is higher at lower grade levels compared with children in higher grade levels; that it varied markedly by racial/ethnic groups; that it is highest among Pacific Islanders and Hispanics; and, that there is significant difference between
Geographical areas – are all components of descriptive epidemiology. On the other hand, the analytical epidemiology was represented by: study of genetics as it relates to obesity; the investigation of physical inactivity, poor nutrition, lack of access to parks and green spaces, and unsafe neighborhood; and the examination of association between socio-economic status, cultural practices, health belief system, and other health related behaviors relative to vulnerability to obesity.
In other to find ways to effectively prevent obesity in children, it is important to consider what is going on at each level of child development and growth. First and foremost, the primary prevention should aim at education and health promotion. This will involve teaching healthy eating at home and school, and increased physical activity instead of video games and TV watching with strong emphasis on maintaining behavior throughout lifetime. According to U. S.
Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS] (2010), “because appropriate physical activity levels and healthy eating behaviors should be instilled in childhood and maintained throughout life, prevention efforts that target older children and schools are equally important”. On the other hand, attempts should be made to help those children who have been affected. Introduction of lifestly modification will go a long way into helping the affected children recover from obesity. Both parents and school administrators have greater responsibilities in helping to eradicate the ugly effects of obesity in children.
Appropriate intervention that is targeted towards the affected children to have behavior or live style modification is necessary at this time. This intervention will not only focus on the individual children but also their physical environment. In this situation, their physical environment is essentially the homes and schools. Lastly, the tertiary prevention deals with rehabilitation of these children who are already affected. To bring them to recovery, and restore them to highest function through adaptation of a new lifestyle and supportive environment.
Research has shown that behavior change is more likely to endure when a person’s environment is simultaneously changed in a manner that supports the behavior change (USDHHS, 2010). In conclusion, Obesity occurs when an individual consumes more calories than the body burns. This translates to the practice of eating too much and exercising very little. Apart from food and beverage consumption, factor such as: age, genetics, environment, physical activities, illness, psychological factors and medication plays significant role in obesity.
It poses a serious health concern for the children not only in Los Angeles but around the world. Obese children are more likely to suffer from emotional, psychiatric, physiological, and psychological problems. Epidemiology is the study of patterns of health problems in human population, and its application to control the health problem. Descriptive epidemiology describes the characteristics of group of people who have and who have no health problems, and analytic epidemiology focuses on determinants of health problems.
Epidemiology triad includes the agent, host, and the agent. It is a model for epidemiology based on the belief that health status is multi factorial. Epidemiological methods are used in many areas including: conducting studies of health related behaviors; and, investigation of relationships between social conditions and vulnerability with health conditions. To track down the prevalence of childhood obesity in Los Angeles County, epidemiology methods were used for the study.