Friday, March 29, 2013

Blog 7 - Magnitude and Indicators

I have decided to further narrow my problem definition in this way: The rise in obesity among 12 to 18 year olds in the United States over the past 15 years. I have decided to define obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. I have decided to use BMI for my definition of “obese” because it has been proven to be a reliable measure of body fat among the United States population.

When looking at the magnitude of childhood obesity in the United States, it is clear that it has grown and continues to do so overtime. In fact, “since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled” (source 3). Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States and 9 million children/teens (ages 6-19) are defined as overweight. “From 1998 to 2003, the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.05% to 15.21%” (source 3). With these data and stats, childhood obesity is definitely a rapidly rising issue in the United States.

There are numerous surveillance systems used in the United States to track obesity rates. Some examples of the collection of data include personal household interviews, physical examinations and surveys.

A direct indicator directly measures the problem. An example of a direct indicator could be the percentage of kids who drink more than one sugary drink per day. This could be a big indicator because “sugar drinks are the largest source of added sugar and an important contributor of calories in the diets of children in the United States” (source 5). These drinks add calories quickly to a child’s diet, which overtime contributes to the increasing obesity rates. Another indicator could be the amount of television that a child watches each day. Watching television is a sedentary activity, which contributes to the lack of physical activity for a child each day. For another direct indicator, one could look at the percentage of middle and high schools that offer less healthy foods in their cafeterias. The majority of children get their lunch at their school’s cafeteria, so it is important to look at what kind of foods the cafeteria offers each day.

On the other hand, an indirect indicator instead measures the related factors. A main indirect indicator of childhood obesity would be the lack of physical activity. A healthy diet includes physical activity, so it is essential that a person exercise regularly along with eating a balanced diet. Another indirect indicator could be genetics. A researcher could look at a child’s genetic history, especially his or her parents, in order to see any trends dealing with obesity that may occur. Looking at these stats could help a researcher determine any trends early and possibly prevent any causes of obesity before they begin. More indirect indicators could include the environment where a child lives and his or her eating habits. If a child lives in a house that is in a food desert, he will most likely have less healthy foods in his house to eat. When thinking about eating habits, the foods that a child eats early on in life tend to become his favorite foods later on in life or foods that he eats most often. If these are unhealthy foods, it could lead to unhealthy eating habits for the rest of the child’s childhood.

A weakness in my information could be dealing with a person’s BMI. Although it is a proper measure of a person’s body fat, it does not really take muscle into account. This could cause problems because a person’s BMI could say they are obese when they are in fact simply very muscular. My indicators could also be weak because of the bias they may include. However, the surveillance systems that are used for my topic could be seen as strengths because the data from surveillance systems is concrete evidence or documentation of one’s personal information when dealing with weight and obesity.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blog 6 - Problem Definition

Rise in obesity among 12 to 18 year olds in the United States over the past 30 years

Obesity is becoming a big public health issue in the world. The percentage of obese children is rapidly increasing in the United States. In fact, only about six percent of school-aged children were obese. That figure rose to 18 percent in 2010. Although obesity can have many different causes, one of the main ones among children in middle and high school is the nutritional content of the school lunches. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recorded that the food that children consume at school accounts for between 35 and 50 percent of their overall diet. Other statistics include 40 percent of the students eat one or more snacks daily and 68 percent of the students drink at least one sugary drink. That being said, it is important to study what kind of food these kids are choosing to eat at school.

This topic is interesting to me because I am already interested in nutrition and food in our society. Obesity has become a huge issue in our nation more recently due to the change in diets all over the country. It is also an interesting topic to me because it could be fixed, with creative solution plans. Although there have been some solutions in the past, obesity still seems to be an issue that is rising in our nation. I am looking forward to researching more about this topic and possibly coming up with solutions to the problem on my own.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Blog Assignment 5 - Contagion

This week’s blog assignment focused on the 2011 hit movie “Contagion”. This movie shows the United States health care system in action as a small disease spreads worldwide. The virus is traced back to China and it quickly spreads to the United States through human interaction. The movie follows various public health practitioners to show the many steps of a public health system. As the disease continues to spread, the movie shows how the health system must adapt and what it must do in times of disaster. At the end of the movie, the audience learns that the disease started with bat feces and ended up causing complete chaos worldwide. I really enjoyed watching this movie. It helped me understand actually how much work is put into a health system like ours. Yes, this movie was a bit exaggerated, but it is true that an epidemic like this could occur. It was interesting to see how various types of people reacted to the disease and how they planned on doing something about it.

A few public health terms directly relate to this movie in a big way. An outbreak is when the number of cases recorded of a disease is more than the expected number. This term relates to the movie “Contagion” because the virus started in one person and rapidly spread across the globe, ending up an epidemic. An outbreak investigation is a study of the disease; that is, the causes, symptoms, number of cases, etc. This term relates to the movie because it is essentially the whole plot. “Contagion” spends the majority of the movie showing the problem, portraying the symptoms, studying the disease, and brainstorming ways to stop the epidemic. In the movie, an epidemiologist goes to China to research the disease while researchers stay in the United States to study the magnitude of the epidemic and begin to devise the next steps that should be taken to stop it. The next term, isolation, means the separation of those people who are infected with the disease from the people who are not. In “Contagion”, various patients who were already infected were put in a gymnasium so that they were kept away from the patients who were still healthy. This was the very first precautionary step that the health system took to begin to stop the epidemic. The final term, quarantine, is when people who may have been exposed to the certain disease are separated from the outside world to observe whether or not they will contract the disease. In the movie, the main character, the man whose wife and stepson die, is quarantined, but the researchers discover he is immune.

Since 9/11, Public Health Preparedness has certainly become an important topic in our nation because when something unexpected occurs, the public health system must act quickly. This issue is apparent in “Contagion” because when the outbreak occurs, the population goes into a state of panic and chaos. I believe that there are a few instances in the movie where the public health agencies could have been more “prepared”. For example, the government utilized a “first come, first served” system to distribute the low amount of food portions to the town residents. This could have been better done because there are many different factors that cause a sort of “unfairness” in the society. The public health agencies should try to lessen those factors to create a more even access to the food portions, for example, among the population. Another situation in the movie that could have been done better is the way the government distributed the vaccines. The government implemented a lottery style system that used birthdays to determine who would get the limited number of vaccines for that day. Although this type of system is a randomized one, the public health agencies could have distributed the vaccines to those individuals who needed it most. Addressing these issues and solving them would improve the overall effectiveness of the public health system of our nation.