Obesity has become a nationwide epidemic that affects a vast amount of our population. According to Reingold and Jordan, obesity is considered a widespread and all-inclusive health problem in the United States that affects over 72 million Americans (2013). There is a distinct difference between being classified obese versus being classified overweight. The Centers for Disease Control uses the tool of body mass index, or BMI, to determine an individual’s weight status (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2016). A BMI that defines overweight is considered to be 25.0- 29.9, whereas a BMI classified as obese would be 30.0 or greater (Reingold & Jordan, 2013). The statistics have shown to trend upward for every population, but some groups are more susceptible to the detrimental health factor.
Obesity tends to affect a certain faction of the population, including those that are considered lower socioeconomic class, certain minority groups including the Hispanic population and African American population, as well as those with physical disabilities. The aforementioned factors appear to almost double the chances of being considered obese (Bazyk & Winne, 2013). Unfortunately, the total number of pediatric obesity cases are steadily rising. The national percentage of youth considered obese is seventeen (Kugel, Dysinger, Hewitt, 2017). Due to the enhanced importance of early development, children are at a greater disadvantage to face comorbidities such as poor physical, social, and mental health.
The youth of today faces many novel struggles that have previously been unexperienced by older generations, as we are now living in a dynamically changing society, (Kugel et al., 2017). With the ever-growing field of technology, kids are becoming more sedentary and less likely to seek healthy food options due to inexpensive and convenient of fast food chains (Reingold & Jordan, 2013). Studies have shown vast correlation between obesity and other chronic diseases such as sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, cerebrovascular accidents, infertility (Reingold & Jordan, 2013).
Not only is physical health impacted greatly, psychological health stands to be affected too. Issues such as anxiety, suicidal ideations, and depression are common among obese children (Bazyk & Winne, 2013). Social health is also negatively influenced by obese children. The inability to engage in activities of daily living, such as play, due to obesity has shown a correlation to rates of self-reported weight-based bullying, social exclusion, and social withdrawal (Kugel et al., 2017). This dangerous trifecta of negatively impacted physical, social, and psychological health is alarming and stands to be a task for occupational therapy to face head-on.
The heart of occupational therapy lies within our ability to provide meaningful and effective interventions to assist clients in their return to participation of daily functions and activities (Reingold & Jordan, 2013). But occupational therapy professionals must realize the important role that prevention holds regarding childhood obesity. As mentioned earlier, obesity tends to confound with numerous other comorbidities, all of which can negatively impact activities of daily living. It is important to be able to recognize factors that signal the possibility of obesity’s chronic progression (Kugel et al., 2017). Occupational therapy plants its roots in advocacy, therefore all occupational therapists should advocate for their clients physical, social, and psychological health.
During any pediatric client encounter, an occupational therapist can incorporate numerous healthy habits into their practices and interventions, such as proper nourishment training, physical activity, and positive social interactions (Lau et al., 2013; Reingold & Jordan, 2013). Occupational therapists can perform early health interventions in a variety of settings such as school systems, home health, and community-based groups (WILL & SPACK!!!!!!)
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