Obesity is the excessive accumulation of fat in the tissues, which may affect the systems and present a risk to the normal functioning of different organs. Obesity is not necessarily classified as a disease, but a condition which is a factor in the development of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. By 2025, the World Health Organization predicts that about 60% of the deaths around the world will be the result of life-style diseases such as those previously mentioned (World Health Organization, 2008). Obesity is usually measured anthropometrically through the ratio of weight to height (Body Mass Index (BMI)).Previously, obesity was more rampant in highly developed countries (World Health Organization, 2008).
Needless to say, what used to matter in the development of this condition was adequacy, or more properly, over-adequacy of food sources. But new statistics now show that the prevalence of obesity has increased worldwide in both high and low-income countries, in all ages and in all genders regardless of the individual’s socio-economic status. Rising dramatically in developing countries and in urban areas, obesity is now paradoxically associated with undernutrition, showing the need for prevention and control both in developed and developing countries (World Health Organization, 2008).
According to the World Health Organization (2008), more women have become obese compared to men. Given this and the role of media images on individuals’ self-concepts, and despite the indiscriminate effects of obesity, it is important to take great note on the seriousness of its effects on women. Women, in addition to being burdened health-wise, are affected more, emotionally and psychosocially, as a result of some gender-imposed standards on weight and thinness that pervades societies in general.II. On who are most affectedGovernment agencies and some scientific organizations conduct cross-sectional surveys regarding the prevalence of obesity in the country. One of such surveys is the NHANES.
2001-2004 NHANES data provides age-adjusted estimates that detail the prevalence and relationship of obesity with several factors such as age, race, mortality, as well as its effects on the economy.66 % or about two-thirds of the adult population (133.6 million) in the US are overweight or obese. Among these adults, 49% are women and 51% are men. This is based on an overweight definition of BMI > 25 and obese, > 30. In the same population, it was found out that 63.6 million or 31.4% are obese with 35 million of which consisting of women.
That is about 55%, and men, 28.6 million or 45%, based on the same BMI standard (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007).Of these adults, only less than one-third of the population is of normal or healthy weight, or with BMI > 18.
5 to 24.9. Adults within the healthy range of body weight constitute only about 32.
3% of the population. 38.1 million of the women are considered within the healthy weight range while 27.4 million of the men are within the healthy weight range.
These figures are only a little more than the figures that characterize the obese and significantly less than the figure that characterize overweight and obese combined. This data evidence the gravity of the issue on the weight abnormality in the US population (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007).According to the same data, obesity has become more prevalent over the years indiscriminately among all genders, ages, race, ethnicity, and educational levels (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007; Mokdad, et. al., 2003).
There has been an increase in the prevalence of overweight from 44.8 to 66% among US adults from 1960-2004 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2006; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007).Among women of races, Mexican-American, non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White, the first two constitute the highest statistics in terms of prevalence in overweight and obesity. 73 and 79.6 percent of Mexican-American and non-Hispanic Black women respectively are considered overweight or obese. Only 57.
6% on the non-Hispanic White women are obese. Among men, there is little differences in the prevalence of overweight or obese individuals. 74.6 and 67% of Mexican-American and non-Hispanic Black men are obese while 715 of non-Hispanic White men are obese National Center for Health Statistics, 2006; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007). There is also a high prevalence of overweight and obese individuals among American Indians while there is a lower prevalence of obesity in Asian Americans (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, 2007; Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults, 1998).The results of these statistics imply the possible genetic predisposition of females obesity compared to males. It may be so that there are more males who are overweight or obese compared to females but it is shown that a greater portion of this high percentage lean on being overweight than being obese.
When statistics focus on obesity, females are greater compared to males. The results on ethnic comparison further evidence this higher tendency of females to become obese. Although Mexican-Americans, non-Hispanic Blacks and American Indians showed higher rates of obesity, such ethnic/racial differences are immaterial when applied to males. Fundamental Biology applied, women are genetically inclined to accumulate fat especially in adults, in preparation for a possible gestation. Meanwhile, the high prevalence of obesity in the Hispanics, Blacks and American Indians is explained by their low relative income per capita.III. ApproachNutrition education programs (World Health Organization, 2008) have been primarily targeted to mothers, especially in developing countries. Their rationale, mothers are the ones who are most available at home and in charge of household management, food preparation and child rearing.
The underlying principle in this approach is that by taking care of themselves, they take care of their families as well. The common objectives of these programs are to inculcate in the mothers the basic principles of nutrition in order to help them understand and apply positive lifestyle habits in taking care of themselves and in rearing their families.Nutrition education programs (World Health Organization, 2008) are implemented by primary care doctors and nutritionists assigned in specific areas. These areas have specialized centers where the specialists provide free counseling sessions to women, about diet and physical activity. Generally, dietary advice supports the effectiveness of low-calorie and low-fat diets, coupled with high physical activity. This principle is applied in way that would produce utmost compliance and would be most applicable given each person’s status. Reduction in energy intake, for example, is not done drastically to cause starvation. In effect, there is no plan that could be applied to the general population as specialists carefully tailor their treatment plans to the needs of their patients.
In counseling, the main goal of the specialists is to ensure long-term effects instead of rapid weight loss that could as well, result in illnesses.In communities in developing countries, nutrition education is not limited to counseling. There are areas where specialists are made to visit every house to provide free counseling, and sometimes, demonstrations on proper food preparation. Usually, these areas include urban households and rural places with the highest density of low-income families.
This is to provide them access to important information which they would not bother knowing given the time they have to devote in making a living or simply because of their lack of knowledge to know the importance of such information.IV. InsightsIncreasing awareness is just one of the many approaches in the management and prevention of obesity in women. The author however doubts the effectiveness of this approach if done alone. Although nutrition education provides awareness and understanding, the application of the knowledge gained is still dependent on the individual’s personal choices, motivation, and character. It may be so, that participants are as welcoming and enthusiastic in the idea of being given such knowledge and attention, but given that most of the targets come from low-income communities, sure, the knowledge may be retained but such knowledge is made for naught given the fact that these people still have their primary needs to attend to and think about.
Approaches then should not be done alone. If nutrition education is to be done, it should be in concert with several other approaches and its application ensured by further monitoring and implementation. These, along with the recognition of underlying factors that cause obesity in women should be the key to eradicating obesity.ReferencesMokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, Dietz WH, Vinicor F, Bales VS, Marks JS.
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