This assignment will discuss the health issue of adult obesity on a
local, regional, national and global level. Contemporary social determinants of
health and wellbeing and the link to adult obesity will be researched. Diseases
associated with obesity, at risk groups and the effect on society and the economy
will be covered. The epidemiology will be explored globally, nationally,
regionally and locally, looking at the statistics available. Information about
the provision of health care and prevention strategies/services available
throughout the world will also be discussed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2017) defines obesity “as
abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. An
individual who has a BMI of 30 or above is considered to be obese. (World
Health Organisation WHO, 2017). Although obesity is assessed in this way, it
can vary across different populations, an example being in Asian populations
where weight carries a higher risk with a lower BMI and are known to suffer
increased health problems (Thew & McKenna, 2008). Obesity has for some time
been identified as a major public health issue both within the UK and
internationally (Health Survey England, 2016). Research has shown that in
England approximately a third of children over two are overweight or obese. It
has also been found that younger generations become obese at a younger age and
then remain obese as they mature into adulthood (Fenton, 2017). Obesity
increases the risk of death and according to some figures on average cuts an
individual’s life short by nine years. Individuals that are obese remain at a
higher risk of developing certain types of cancers, heart disease and are five
times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes (Public Health England, 2017).
It is therefore clear to see why obesity is a prominent and growing
public health issue, which is also causing a costly strain on healthcare
budgets. Each year an astounding forty-seven billion pounds is spent in the UK on
healthcare and social costs for the overweight and obese part of the population
(McKinsey Global Institute MGI, as cited in The Guardian, 2014).These trends
are relevant to Lancashire where obesity continues to be a growing public
health issue, I am currently living and studying in Preston which is located in
Lancashire and this will be my chosen area to focus on in this assignment.
There are a large number of different factors that can cause weight
gain in individuals. Increased body weight can be a result of a variety of
influences which include genetics, behavioural, environmental, social,
psychological, medication and diseases. Extensive research has shown that genes
can also cause obesity. Genes can affect the amount of fat that gets stored inside
the body. Genes also determine how efficiently your body converts food into
energy and how it uses calories and energy during exercise (Blackstone, 2016).
Obesity can also occur due to medical reasons. Hypothyroidism is a condition
in which the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. An inadequate
amount of this hormone means that metabolism begins to slow down and causes
weight gain. Cushing’s Syndrome may also be a contributing factor to weight
gain. This condition causes the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol
(steroid hormone which causes a build-up of fat in areas of the body such as
the face and upper back. Problems with arthritis can cause pain when engaging
in physical activity and as a result of this pain may lead to a decrease in
physical activity for this individual (Bracilovic 2011).
Another risk factor for obesity is inactivity, if an individual
burns few calories and is not very active they may be at risk of gaining
weight. It is easy to consume calories each day and not burn off these calories
due to a lack of exercise, inactive job and sedentary lifestyle. A study carried
out by Pietilainen et al. (2008), who looked at the vicious circle of physical
inactivity and obesity, focusing on the transition from adolescence to
adulthood and the causal role of reduced physical activity as a risk factor for
obesity. The results showed that a physically inactive lifestyle triggers
weight gain and vice versa, independent of genetic effects.
Obesity is a multi-factorial condition which makes it difficult to accurately
assess what influence alcohol intake has on obesity risk. However, evidence in
this field suggests that alcohol may be a risk factor for obesity in some individuals,
particularly when consumed in large quantities (Traversy & Chaput, 2015). A
study carried about by Dare, Mackay, and Pell (2015) reported that the relationship
between smoking and obesity can be complex.
Studies have produced conflicting results, whilst some studies have
shown little association between smoking and BMI, others have indicated that smoking
is associated with lower BMI and cessation with increased BMI.
According to Talen and Mann (2009) in her study of obesity in mental
health found a number of factors that contribute to obesity in children,
adolescents and adults. Binge eating disorder, poor body image, low self-esteem
and mood disorders, alongside social factors, contribute to weight gain and
failure to lose weight. Another risk factor is the lifestyle of your family. An
example of this is that if your parents are obese then they may have eating and
lifestyle habits that could have contributed to this. These habits are likely
to be taken on by the children.
Diet and poor eating habits lead to increased food and drink intake.
Kuzbicka and Rachon (2013) found that the most common cause of obesity was
simply due to individuals consuming more calories than were being used by the
body. In their study they attempted to prove that poor eating habits such as
snacking on processed and sugary foods in-between meals, skipping breakfast and
’emotional eating’ were the main cause of obesity among children. The report
found that negative behaviours were significant factors which are likely to
lead to obesity.
Epidemiology is defined by the World Health Organisation (2017) as “the
study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events
(including disease), and the application of this study to the control of
diseases and other health problems” (p.1).
The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2017) reported that on a global
level over 650 million adults aged 18 and over were obese. In the same year it
was reported that 13% of the world’s population was obese (11% men and 15%
women) (WHO, 2017).
As reported by Swinburn et al. (2015) increases in obesity across
the world has been found to be driven by changes in the global food system and
the fact that more processed, affordable and successfully marketed food are
being produced. Until fairly recently obesity was associated with high
socioeconomic status and in the early part of the twentieth century the majority
of countries where obesity had become a public health issue were in the
developed world, primarily USA and Europe. More recently the most significant
increases for obesity are in developing countries such as Mexico, China and
Thailand. The emergence of obesity in developing countries at first only affected higher socioeconomic groups, however
recent trends show a shift from the
higher to the lower socioeconomic groups. National surveys carried out in Brazil
contain evidence to support this trend (Caballero, 2007).