Childhood obesity is a dire public health concern in the United States. Presently, over 30% of the children in the country suffer from obesity. The number accounts for over 23 million youths and children. Experts cite poor feeding habits as the principal cause of childhood obesity. Additionally, they claim that the lack of physical exercise has contributed to the increasing number of obesity cases among children. A majority of the middle and high schools do not offer physical education to the students. According to Cunningham, Kramer, and Narayan (2014), childhood obesity has had an economic toll in the United States.
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The nation spends, at least, $14 billion yearly in the treatment of diseases related to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is incongruent with social work values. The primary value of social work is to protect the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of the people. Social work endeavors to assist all people to realize their full potential, manage dysfunction, and enrich their lives. Nevertheless, obesity does not allow children to accomplish these goals (Deckelbaum & Williams, 2012). Many children are unable to pursue their studies as they sporadically suffer from obesity-related diseases.
Discovery of Childhood Obesity
Childhood obesity has been a common problem in the United States for a long time. Before 1980, the issue of childhood obesity was not prevalent. Therefore, the doctors did not see any cause for alarm. However, from 1980, the number of children suffering from obesity started to increase exponentially prompting the government and health care institutions to take precautionary measures. Currently, medical practitioners claim that childhood obesity is spreading at an alarming rate among ethnic minority groups (Cunningham et al., 2014).
The rapid increase in childhood obesity prompted the United States government and health care organizations to initiate numerous intervention programs. For instance, the government began programs in the health care centers that seek to enhance care coordination. Additionally, the government trained community health workers on how to deal with the problem. The government built numerous recreational facilities to ensure that children engage in physical activities. Schools were encouraged to insist on physical exercise and healthy eating. The United States’ government established numerous centers where parents would visit and learn how to keep their children healthy. Further, the centers also trained the children in how to enhance their nutrition.
Changes in Childhood Obesity
No demographic group is immune to childhood obesity in the United States. Nevertheless, some subgroups are at a higher risk of contracting childhood obesity than others. Initially, childhood obesity was associated with children from affluent families. The children had access to junk food that contained high-calorie content. Additionally, the children did not participate in physical exercise.
However, behavioral change among this group has led to the rate of childhood obesity going down. Today, the pandemic affects children from both the affluent and less fortunate families. Deckelbaum and Williams (2012) hold that the children from ethnic minority groups like the non-Hispanic blacks are the most affected. Additionally, the problem is prevalent among children who live in poor neighborhoods. These kids spend more than eight hours on media use per day. They do not have time for physical exercise. In all the groups, both boys and girls are at an equal risk of contracting childhood obesity.
Koh and Sebelius (2010) claim that states continue to come up with nutrition policies by enacting laws that seek to assist the federal government in the fight against childhood obesity. For instance, there is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which aims to ensure that children have access to healthy food. In 2014, about 22 states adopted legislation that attempts to make sure that schools observed healthy eating. A significant milestone in the fight against childhood obesity has come with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or what is commonly referred to as Obamacare.
The Act has initiated measures that will help to reverse the problem of childhood obesity (Gostin & Garcia, 2012). Obamacare has created Obesity Demonstration Project that works in liaison with community-based organizations. The project uses verified, important health care and community interventions whose primary objective is to prevent childhood obesity. Obamacare requires insurance companies to finance a collection of precautionary health care services that target children. Today, children can access preventive health care services without paying a dime. Indeed, the Affordable Care Act has enabled innumerable parents to prevent their children from suffering from weight-related health issues (Koh & Sebelius, 2010). The Act requires insurance companies to cover obesity screening and counseling, body mass index measurements as well as the weight measurement.
The Affordable Care Act “encourages states to come up with public awareness campaigns to educate Medicaid enrollees on the availability and coverage of preventive services, including obesity-related services” (Williams, McClellan & Rivlin, 2013, p. 1483). The campaign aims at ensuring that states do not report new cases of childhood obesity. The Affordable Care Act assists states to identify efficient health care plans through the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). The CHIPRA helps children to observe healthy eating and lead an active life. Obamacare works in close collaboration with the Let’s Move campaign initiated by the United States’ First Lady Michelle Obama. The campaign equips children and parents with instruments they need to live a healthy and active life.
The federal statutes dictate all the policies that fall under the Affordable Care Act. The federal government sets regulations that govern insurance companies. A majority of the state officials agree that the fight against childhood obesity can only be worn with the help of the federal government. The state government cannot offer adequate finance and leadership that are paramount in the fight against childhood obesity. Nevertheless, the federal government is in the process of formulating mechanisms that will enable individual states to come up with statutes aimed at fighting childhood obesity (Williams et al., 2013). For instance, the federal government has initiated the Medicaid reforms that will enable the states to formulate policies that suit their needs.
The Success of the Policy
The Affordable Care Act has made significant strides in the fight against childhood obesity. The Act has ensured that health facilities engage in community services. The Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project has served as an eye-opener to parents and children. Indeed, many children and education institutions have embarked on a lifestyle change to ensure that kids do not contract obesity. Schools and families are encouraging children to eat healthily. Besides, the number of recreational facilities in both residential areas and schools has increased. Obesity and body mass index screening is helping parents to check on the weight of their children. The number of citizens with insurance cover has increased significantly since the introduction of the policy.
Notwithstanding the success of the Affordable Care Act, the policy has had some shortcomings. Currently, Obamacare seeks to prevent an increase in the rate of childhood obesity in the United States. All the programs that are under the policy aim at ensuring that children do not suffer from childhood obesity. Unfortunately, the system has not come up with mechanisms to assist those who suffer from childhood obesity. Williams et al. (2013) claim that even though the Affordable Care Act has led to the establishment of numerous programs that encourage children to do physical exercise and eat healthily, it has not initiated a single program to assist those who are obese.
Support for Obamacare
The Affordable Care Act has been in operation for the last five years. President Barrack Obama signed the statute into law in 2010. Since its enactment, the law has received both support and criticism in equal measures. The Democrats are the major supporters of the Obamacare policy. The Democrats argue that the system has helped to boost health care in the country. Other groups that support the system include community health centers, National Women’s Law Center, as well as children’s advocate groups (Dalen, Waterbrook & Alpert, 2015).
The community health centers claimed that the introduction of subsidies enabled them to reach more children who needed their services. On the other hand, the children’s advocate groups support the Obamacare policy because it established Children’s Health Insurance Programs. Dalen et al. (2015) claim that the Obamacare plan receives significant support from the Hispanic community as well as young adults.
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The Affordable Care Act receives significant opposition particularly from the Republican governors, congressmen as well as Republican presidential candidates. Indeed, the presidential candidates have promised to repeal the policy if they ascend to power. The Republicans are opposed to the involvement of the federal government in health matters. Private insurance companies are also opposed to the Obamacare policy. The insurance companies claim that since the introduction of the system, their revenue has gone down (Dalen et al., 2015). Most employees are also opposed to the Affordable Care Act. The employees claim that the Act led to changes in employment terms and working hours. Today, many companies ensure that their employees work for less than 25 hours to avoid providing insurance cover for them.
The following was an interview with John (not real name) who is a legislator on his opinion about the Obamacare policy.
Interviewer: Why do you feel that Obamacare policy has helped in the fight against childhood obesity?
John: Before the establishment of the policy schools did not empathize on healthy eating or body mass index (BMI) screening. However, today, many elementary schools, particularly in Massachusetts, conduct BMI screening for their children. The information gathered helps both the parents and schools in ensuring that children do not become overweight.
Interviewer: Why did Obamacare focus on childhood obesity?
John: Childhood obesity exposes children to other diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even diabetes. Addressing childhood obesity helps the country to save on medical costs.
Interviewer: Not all people are aware of the programs like the Childhood Obesity Demonstration program. How else is Obamacare helping to create awareness among the parents and schools?
John: Through the Obamacare policy, the government works in liaison with community health workers to educate the public on how to prevent childhood obesity.
Interviewer: Critics of the Obamacare policy say that it neglects children who are obese. What is your take on that?
John: Most programs that are in operation focus on the prevention of childhood obesity. However, that does not mean that the policy is not conscious of the children who are obese. Plans are underway to incorporate these children in the fight against childhood obesity.
Interviewer: As we wind up, do you trust that Obamacare will succeed in the fight against childhood obesity?
John: I am confident that the policy will succeed. Statistics already indicate that the rate of childhood obesity is going down across the country.
Interviewer: Thank you for honoring my invitation and have a great time.
John: I appreciate. Thank you.
How Canada Addresses Childhood Obesity
Canada, like other countries, has a high number of children that are either overweight or obese. Statistics from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that the country has witnessed a remarkable increase in cases of childhood obesity over the past three decades (Tremblay & Willms, 2014). Currently, the central, territorial and provincial governments work together in the fight against childhood obesity.
The states have put in place a framework that seeks to ensure that the country’s ministers of health give priority to childhood obesity. In 2011, ministers from the federal, territorial and provincial governments “launched a national dialogue on childhood healthy weights” (Tremblay & Willms, 2014, p. 1103). The ministers brought together parents and stakeholders across the country to deliberate on how they can fight childhood obesity. Currently, their effort seems to bear fruits. The three governments have managed to encourage children to eat healthily and participate in physical activities. Additionally, governments have managed to establish supportive physical and social environments.
Most Canadian children have access to nutritious food. Moreover, the children have limited access to foods and drinks that contain a high amount of sugar, fat or sodium. Presently, Canada does not record new cases of childhood obesity (Tremblay & Willms, 2014). Experts claim that the problem has leveled off. However, it does not mean that the country has managed to arrest the problem of childhood obesity. The government continues to work with stakeholders to assist the children who are overweight. Additionally, it continues to educate the public on how to live a healthy life, thus avoiding becoming overweight.
Development of Alternative Policy
Policy to Assist Obese Children
The fight against childhood obesity cannot be won by just adopting preventive mechanisms. There is a need to assist children who are already overweight or obese. This policy is dated February 26, 2016. The policy borrows highly from the data on childhood obesity compiled by the World Health Organization. It intends to work with obese children who do not benefit from the Affordable Care Act. The policy will facilitate the establishment of proper facilities, which will assist overweight and obese children and their parents.
A study on the effectiveness of Obamacare policy in dealing with childhood obesity shows that the Act has succeeded in helping children to check on their weight. Nevertheless, the research indicates that the policy has not laid down mechanisms to assist obese children. Consequently, this policy is formulated to address the shortcomings of the Obamacare law. The primary goal of the policy is to support children with obesity to regain their health. Additionally, the system will educate parents on how to assist the obese children.
Obamacare policy has made significant progress in the fight against childhood obesity. However, there is a need for a change of strategies to ensure that children suffering from obesity regain their health and lead a happy life like others. In this regard, the changes ought to occur at the local level. Local leaders and community health workers are in a better position to assist in the fight against childhood obesity. The policy intends to empower local leaders and community health workers. All the requisite resources will be shifted to the local level to ensure that the health workers reach as many children as possible. The goal is to ensure that the fight against child obesity starts at the household level.
The alternative policy is congruent with the values of social work. Social workers must promote and uphold human dignity and health. In line with this value, the alternative policy intends to restore the dignity of obese children by enabling them to overcome the problem. The social worker also values the right to self-determination. Social workers are discouraged from imposing decisions on the public.
The workers are required to guide the public in decision-making processes, but allow them to make an independent choice. In light of this value, the alternative policy will educate the parents on different methods of assisting obese children and enable them to choose the approach that suits them. No child or parent will be coerced to join the program. Resource distribution is critical to the success of the alternative policy. The community health workers will help to ensure that resources are distributed equitably across all regions.
Feasibility of Alternative Policy
The success of the alternative system will depend on its economic, political and administrative feasibility. The policy will be implemented with the help of community health workers and local leaders. As a result, it will be easier to manage since the community health workers are distributed across the country. The local leaders are in regular contact with the public. Thus, they understand the needs of different families within their areas of administration. For this reason, local leaders will be in a position to ensure that all families benefit from the policy. Additionally, the leaders will ensure that the system is tailored to the needs of individual families.
The political leaders, as well as the general public, appreciate that child obesity is a national challenge that must be addressed. As a result, there is no doubt that the alternative policy will receive immense support from the political class as well as the public. Critics of the Obamacare policy, together with most health care officials agree that the Affordable Care Act does not consider the obese children. Indeed, some officials have initiated programs to assist overweight and obese children.
There is no doubt that the alternative program will get the support of the state leaders and health care officials. The alternative policy will utilize locally available resources. The system does not recommend the employment of new health care workers. Instead, it will work with the staff that is already deployed at the grassroots. The objective of working with the available health care workers is to cut down on economic costs and ensure that the policy is economically viable.
How the Policy Meets My Goals
The principal objective of formulating the alternative policy is to promote social equality. The system will achieve this goal by ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to health care regardless of their financial status. Mostly, ethnic minorities do not have access to health information. The alternative policy will guarantee that the information reaches all people across the United States.
The system will also ensure the redistribution of resources. The local leaders will identify areas that lack requisite resources and act accordingly. For instance, the local leaders will be responsible for identifying regions that are short of health care workers and redeploying staff to those areas. One of the values of social work is to shun discrimination. Social workers are required to ensure that all people have access to health and other social services. The alternative policy is designed to work with social workers. As a result, it will guarantee that there is no discrimination in service delivery. The system will uphold people’s right to decision making. The social workers and local leaders will work in liaison with communities to identify the best ways to deal with childhood obesity.
Implementation of the Alternative Policy
The alternative policy will demand a concerted effort among social workers, local leaders, and the community. Thus, to ensure collaboration between social workers and the local leaders, the parties will hold numerous workshops. The goal of the workshops will be to sensitize them to the importance of the policy and their role in its implementation. The workshops will also help social workers and local leaders to set their duties and establish communication structures. After the workshops, the local leaders and social workers will visit the communities to identify their needs before rolling out the program.
The community will also be informed about the existence of the alternative policy and its goals, therefore winning the public support. Currently, there is a high demand for alternative methods of addressing childhood obesity. Therefore, this system will take advantage of the demand by the public and national leaders to come up with alternative policies. On the other hand, the system will encounter stiff opposition from parties that believe that Obamacare is adequate and coming up with alternative policies will be a burden to the country and the society at large. The system will heavily rely on its economic viability to counter the opposition. The cost associated with the policy will be made public for people to compare it with Obamacare.
The time to take the fight against childhood obesity to the masses is long overdue. For decades, the government has relied on health facilities to assist the public in leading a healthy life. I feel that the alternative policy will equip the parents with requisite skills to cater for their sick children. Besides, the policy will boost the fight against childhood obesity by ensuring that no other cases are reported. The parents will have skills to identify when the children are at the risk of becoming obese, therefore taking appropriate steps to assist them. My role as a social worker is to educate the public about the dangers associated with childhood obesity and how they can evade them. Additionally, I must train the public in how they can take care of their health without relying on health care officials.
Cunningham, S., Kramer, M., & Narayan, V. (2014). Incidence of childhood obesity in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(1), 403-411. Web.
Dalen, J., Waterbrook, K., & Alpert, J. (2015). Why do so many Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act? The American Journal of Medicine, 128(8), 807-810. Web.
Deckelbaum, R., Williams, C. (2012). Childhood obesity: The health issue. Obesity Research, 9(11), 239-243. Web.
Gostin, L., & Garcia, K. (2012). Affordable Care Act litigation: The Supreme Court and the future of health care reform. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(4), 369-378. Web.
Koh, H., & Sebelius, K. (2010). Promoting prevention through the Affordable Care Act. The New England Journal of Medicine, 363(1), 1296-1299. Web.
Tremblay, M., & Willms, J. (2014). Is the Canadian childhood obesity epidemic related to physical inactivity? International Journal of Obesity, 27(1), 1100-1105. Web.
Williams, D., McClellan, M., & Rivlin, A. (2013). Beyond the Affordable Care Act: Achieving real improvements in Americans’ health. Health Affairs, 29(8), 1481-1488. Web.