Fighting Against Childhood Obesity: Florida’s Child Care Food Program

Introduction

The economic and technological advancements that occurred during the last century changed dietary regimens and the number of people who lead a sedentary lifestyle, increasing obesity rates. The issue concerns not only the adult population but also its youngest members. Childhood obesity has a potential long-term impact on adult health conditions, among which are T2D, asthma, joint problems, cardiovascular diseases, et cetera. Although some of the conditions can disappear when a child’s weight returns to normal, in some cases, they persevere through adulthood, leading to fatal outcomes in some patients (Sahoo et al., 2015). In addition to medical consequences, childhood, obesity entails socio-economic ones – a considerable body of literature supports the idea that the health issue affects children’s emotional state and social development (Sahoo et al., 2015). Obesity in childhood has also been found to correlate with decreased school performance. These adverse effects accentuate the need to manage this challenging medical problem affecting children and teenagers globally.

Executive Summary

Proposed Change

Although Florida is not the leading state regarding childhood obesity, the problem is still extensive. Several obesity prevention programs are active in the state; yet, it appears that a comprehensive initiative designed for adolescents and children does not exist. For instance, Florida’s Child Care Food Program (CCFD) strives to ensure that children can access nutritious meals. Nevertheless, it could extend its functions and also promote healthier weigh considering best practices employed by other initiatives (Let’s Move! can serve as an example). It is well-known that the three most effective strategies regarding the issue are creating healthy eating behavior, habitual physical exercises, and decreasing sedentary activities (Sahoo et al., 2015). CCFD is occupied with the first aspect, while physical activity and changing sedentary lifestyles are just as crucial for the program’s ultimate objective – increasing healthy BMI rates among the state’s children and adolescents. Ultimately, CCFD involves vulnerable and economically disadvantaged groups, among which the problem is especially acute, and it could consider other preventive strategies to ameliorate the final results.

Desired Outcomes

Ultimately, the proposal could improve BMI rates among South Florida’s children and adolescents, particularly those who come from low-income households. The current obesity rate among children between ten and seventeen years old (the main targeted group) is about eighteen percent (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). The proposal’s implementation could be reflected in the numbers, although visible changes in the percentage require overarching communal effort. Nonetheless, even small improvements are instrumental and serve to initiate a more considerable advancement. Furthermore, the decrease in obesity rates would somewhat diminish cases of diseases and conditions resulting from excessive weigh such as T2D, cardiovascular diseases, sleep apnea, et cetera, easing the strain on the state’s public health system.

Additionally, the proposal would lead to an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. Encouraging and helping children that benefit from CCFD to be more physically active could also result in mental health improvements since obesity has been associated with social and emotional dissatisfaction (Sahoo et al., 2015). Overall, the desired outcomes concern lifestyle changes (healthier dietary habits, less and time spent in sedentary activities) that improve the BMI of the targeted group and thus their physical, social, and emotional development.

Health Care System Comparative Analysis

Outcomes Health Exercise Nutrition for the Really Young (HENRY) (UK) Obesity Prevention Among Migrant Communities in Victoria (Australia) CCFD
Parental or caregivers’ involvement Increased parental self‐efficacy and self-esteem (Bridge et al., 2019). Lack of parental involvement in school-based obesity programs (Renzaho et al., 2017). Parents or caregivers are not engaged.
Sedentarism Reduction in screen time. Does not address this factor. Provides no influence on this aspect.
Healthier nutrition Healthier eating across the whole family.
Reduction in energy-dense and sugary food and drinks consumption.
Promotes culturally sensitive healthy nutrition. Nutritious meals are created according to federal guidelines.
Physical activity Higher physical activity rate. Increase in active play. Indicates barriers to engaging in physical activity programs exist. Does not influence the indicator significantly.
Emotional and social well-being Increase in emotional well-being for children and family members. Considers cultural social norms. Promotes children’s emotional well-being.

Rationale for the Proposed Change

Alarming children and youth obesity rates accentuate the need to use scientifically and practically corroborated methods to mitigate the issue. Evidence-based practice in this respect “results in a higher quality and reliability of health care, improved patient outcomes, and reduced costs” (Melnyk & Newhouse, 2014, p. 347). It is crucial to involve parents and caregivers in preventive practices, instructing and informing them about how to create a healthier and more balanced diet with consideration to perhaps limited time and monetary resources. Studies suggest that community-based programs that involve parents and educational institutions are especially prolific in achieving the goal (Bridge et al., 2019). It is supported by the HENRY program outcomes that in the case of low-income households, parental engagement and cooking skills are crucial for normalizing BMI (Bridge et al., 2019). Therefore, work with parents and their involvement in CCFD is essential for lowering Florida’s obesity rates.

In addition to increasing parental participation in healthy nutrition programs similar to CCFD, physical activity and discussion of sedentarism play another fundamental role. Literature suggests that educational interventions regarding physical activity are potentially instrumental in obesity prevention not only during childhood but also in adulthood since lifestyle changes are less challenging at that stage (Sahoo et al., 2015). Similarly, developmentally appropriate regular physical activity is a primary recommendation that the WHO provides in this regard (World Health Organization, n.d.). Hence, the nature of the issue under consideration requires a complex solution.

Financial and Health Implications

The proposal aims to alleviate the pressure on the local healthcare, initially created by conditions and illnesses associated with early life obesity. Treatment of obesity in children and adolescents seems like one of the preventive measures for morbidity increase and healthcare costs that arise when children with obesity reach adulthood. The problem has considerable financial repercussions for the state’s health care system. Firstly, additional direct costs encompass diagnostic and treatment procedures related to the condition. According to Chu et al. (2018), “obese people perform less productively at work due to their absence from work, physical limitations, low life expectancy (premature deaths), disability pensions and unemployment benefits” (p. 10). Secondly, costs associated with premature death and decreased work performance reflect the indirect economic consequences of not addressing childhood obesity efficiently.

Conclusion

Currently, obesity became one of the principal public health issues in an array of developing and developed countries. Implementing the proposal could help children suffering from obesity adopt life-style changes needed for normalizing BMI. Parental and communal involvement and support, primarily in cases where socially disadvantaged children are concerned, facilitates the process significantly, which the HENRY program demonstrates. The proposal to modify CCFD accordingly could help change Florida to become a healthier state, decreasing the pressure that obesity and related diseases create on its healthcare system.

References

Bridge, G. L., Willis, T. A., Evans, C. E. L., Roberts, K., & Rudolf, M. (2019). The impact of HENRY on parenting and family lifestyle: exploratory analysis of the mechanisms for change. Child: Care, Health and Development, 1-11.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.

Chu, D.-T., Minh Nguyet, N. T., Dinh, T. C., Thai Lien, N. V., Nguyen, K.-H., Nhu Ngoc, V. T., & Pham, V.-H. (2018). An update on physical health and economic consequences of overweight and obesity. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 1‑18.

Melnyk, B. M., & Newhouse, R. (2014). Evidence-based practice versus evidence-informed practice: A debate that could stall forward momentum in improving healthcare quality, safety, patient outcomes, and costs. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 11(6), 347–349.

Renzaho, A. M. N., Green, J., Smith, B. J., & Polonsky, M. (2017). Exploring factors influencing childhood obesity prevention among migrant communities in Victoria, Australia: A qualitative study. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 20(4), 865–883.

Sahoo, K., Choudhury, A. K., Kumar, R., & Bhadoria A. S. (2015). Childhood obesity: Causes and consequences. Family Med Prim Care, 4(2), 187–192.

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health. Web.

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