Human Services Community Problem Research Proposal

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Obesity in Bellingham, WA

A MAJOR HEALTH THREAT

The 2005 OECD ranking showed that the U.S. topped the list with 30% of all the 1 billion overweight people and 300 million of them obese in the world (CDC, 2010). Recent U.S. health statistics reflect that 66.5% of Americans have more than 25 BMI, an indicator of obesity, with a dramatic increase in the past two decades and remaining high since then. As of 2010, all the States had a prevalence of more than 20%, 36 of which had 25% or more. Of this number 12 had a prevalence of 30% or more (CDC).

The Burden in Washington State

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It is now common knowledge that overweight and obesity are a huge drain on the country's health and economy (DOH, 2009). They are major health risks to chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Unhealthy diet habits and the lack of sufficient physical activity are at the bottom of overweight and obesity. Hence, interventions have been focused on these problem areas (DOH). The CDC (2011) currently funds 25 States to manage increasing rates of overweight and obesity through statewide cooperation with multiple partners. The Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity program aims at creating policy and environmental adjustments to encourage physical activity, eating of fruits and vegetables, and breastfeeding. At the same time, it will discourage TV viewing, eating sugary beverages and high-energy and high-calorie foods. Washington has been a recipient of program funding since 2001 (CDC).

Research Proposal on Human Services Community Problem Assignment

Washington's estimated total population as of 2007 was 6.5 million, of which 5 million are adults (CDC, 2011). Of this adult population, 36% are considered overweight and 26% are obese. This was the summary of the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data report. It said that 18% of these affected adults have no leisure time physical activity in the previous month of study; and only 26% of them eat fruits and vegetables 5 or more times a day. The 2006 Healthy Youth Survey for the State found that 11% of 10th graders were obese and 14% were overweight. Fewer than half of those investigated eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily at 30% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and 22% of 12th graders. In 2003, the State spent $1.3 billion on medical costs associated with adult obesity (CDC). The present adult obesity rate in Whatcom County is 23.17% as compared to the State's 25.7% (City Data, 2012). On the other hand, the lowest preschool obesity rate in Whatcom County is 14.4% as compared to the State's 13.9% (City Data).

The Department of Health (2009) described obesity as epidemic in Washington. It also reported that the number of obese adults doubled in the past 19 years from 10% in 1990 to 27% in 2009. Its prevalence increases almost a percentage every year. The number of overweight adults increased by 34-36% from 1991-2009. In 2009, 62% of adults in this State were overweight or obese. Obesity is highest at ages 45-74 and lowest among 75-year-olds or older and 18-24-year-olds. Between the survey period of 1999-2009, it was most prevalent among younger adults aged 18-34 and slowest among men aged 45-54 and women aged 55-64. The prevalence is comparatively faster among women than men. According to race and origin, obesity has been found most prevalent among American Indians and Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, Blacks and Hispanic adults. It is lowest among Asians (DOH).

Income and education are significant factors in the prevalence of obesity (DOH, 2009). Adults earning less than 35,000 annually are 44% more likely to be obese than those earning $75,000 or higher. Those earning in-between have a 26% likelihood of becoming obese than those earning $75,000 or higher. Other factors appear significant. It is higher among those without a college degree at 52% more than college graduates. College graduates who are obese also increase more slowly than those who are not college graduates, especially before the year 2000. Prevalence is unevenly distributed throughout the State. But it is highest in the Southwest and Central regions (DOH).

Obese adults have been found to consume diets with fewer fruits and vegetables or not physically active at recommended levels (DOH, 2009). They are also more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, high blood cholesterol or hypertension. As such, they are at a risk for chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or asthma. Among children, fewer physical activities, fewer home meals, food advertisements by the media and marketing outfits targeting children, bigger portion sizes, more sedentary times, TV and computers are behind the increase in rates of overweight. Other factors are fetal weight gain, parental obesity and adiposity rebound also account for overweight and obesity among children (DOH).

Bellingham, WA

This is the largest city in Whatcom County and fast becoming an industrial leader on account of its more than 30 major business parks (NWECOM, 2010). These and other recreation areas are quality-of-life factors, which make the city a most welcomed place to live and grow in (NWECOM). The estimated median household median income in 2009 in Bellingham was 35,616.00 as compared to the State's $56,548.00 (City Data, 2012).

But against this background of prosperity, there have been just too many fat children lately, so that Congress would like to interfere when public schools planned to cut back on physical education expenses (Hotakainen, 2012). This has been the trend in many public schools throughout the country. The State requirement for elementary students is 100 minutes of structured PE every week. Yet Bellingham children in kindergarten through the second grade get only 40 and older graders get twice. The school district says schools make up with health teaching and other unstructured activities. Rep Adam Smith from Washington admitted the clear presence of the problem and the decline of overall health to some degree (Hotakainen).

II. Potential Pathways

The Washington Department of Health and its partners began implementing the 2003 Washington State Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan to address the obesity issue in the State (CDC, 2011). Its successful project, "Healthy Communities," was aimed at mobilizing communities to influence policy and the community environment in supporting members with easy access to healthful foods and physical activities. The first two pilot communities were Moses Lake and Mount Vernon, which incorporated the project into their city and country planning and programming. Eight more communities incorporated the project in 2008. This resulted in non-motorized transportation plans, better access to healthful foods through community gardens, farmers markets, and food banks, more efficient trails, and improved school nutrition programs (CDC).

The Active Community Environments project on the community level is another response in Washington (CDC, 2009). These environments are places where people of all ages, interests and abilities can engage in their preferred forms of recreation. These places have their own sidewalks, bicycle facilities, multi-site paths and trails, parks, open space, and recreational facilities. This project encourages homes, businesses, schools and stores to resort to bicycling and walking. Its partnerships promote policies and plans for citizens to be physically active on a daily basis. A consequence is the implementation of "complete streets" policies, pedestrian and bicycle transportation planning, funds to develop or maintain the trails and path system, and the Safe Routes to School programs (CDC).

These policy changes at the state and local levels have led to the passage of a bill requiring communities to incorporate environmental health impacts to support physical activity in their growth management plans (CDC, 2009). The Seattle Board of Health, for example, now requires chain restaurants to publish nutritional information in their menus to customers. Breastfeeding has also succeeded as a community-based initiative. Four Washington hospitals have become baby-friendly as a consequence of the initiative. They meet the 10 criteria for breastfeeding and infant care practices. The National Immunization Survey said that Washington has met all five objectives of the Health People 2010 objectives for breastfeeding of children born in 2005 (CDC).

The Department of Health furthermore supports projects and partnerships, which improve access to healthful foods (CDC, 2009). Among these are "Energize Your Meetings," a guide in serving nutritious foods during meetings and events at worksites: "Fit Pick," a healthy vending initiative of labeled healthful food items; participation in the "Access to Healthy Foods" Coalition, a non-profit organization connecting communities in improving the nutritional environment; and coordinating the program, "Fruits & Veggies -- More Matters" for Washington (CDC).

III. Policy Suggestion: a Federal Law on PE

Rep. Adam Smith and a bipartisan group of 84 other members of the House would want to overhaul the federal education law and pressure public schools to offer more physical education in their curriculums (Hotakainen, 2012). Their position opposes that of many Republicans, who argue that curriculum decisions should be the sole option of local school boards. But the program survived and Congress appropriated $78.8 million in grants for it this year. The grants would help schools raise physical education offerings. Only 5 States require PE every year from kindergarten to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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