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Obesity as a Social Problem

Obesityas a Social Problem


Asocial problem can be defined as a condition that disrupts anddamages the society (Best, J. (2013). It refers to an issue whichaffects a number of people. A social problem has variouscharacteristics. First and foremost, social problems tend to changeexisting situations to the extent that it becomes a major challenge.Therefore, it requires collective efforts to bring about change. Theyare also challenging to solve as well because there is a wide rangeof contributing factors. However, a social problem is only consideredto be a problem if the people are aware of it. This paper discussesobesity as a social issue and explores the solutions in place toaddress it.

WhyObesity Is Considered a Social Problem

Obesityis a social condition that affects many people. It is a healthproblem that has raised a lot of concern in various societies acrossthe globe. WHO estimated that there would be more than 700 millionpeople in the world struggling with obesity and 2.3 billionindividuals who are overweight from age 15 and above in the year 2015(Chan &amp Woo, 2011). A lot of people have made the assumption thatobesity is a problem that only affects the wealthy. The reason behindthis assumption is because poor people have inadequate food.According to the Pan African Health Organization (PAHO), obesity isnot only for the wealthy it also affects the poor. It is a globalburden caused by unhealthy foods in the national and internationalmarket.

Obesityis regarded as a social issue because it is challenging to solve.Prevention of obesity should involve a comprehensive approach thataddresses various factors such lifestyle changes at the individuallevel as well as an enhancing environment. The implementation of thispolicy has been difficult due to several barriers that areencountered during the process. The rise in the use of technology hasmade it challenging to reduce or eliminate obesity. Technology isapplied in almost all settings of an individual’s life at home,school and workplaces. This has reduced the overall physical activityof people because technological devices are now used to enhance mostof the activities. Increased competitiveness in the society has alsoresulted to unhealthy eating habits. Many people are constantlystressed out by the demands placed on them that they end up usingfood for comfort.&quotElevatedcortisol secretion, caused by stress, might disrupt the food intakeregulation in humans and could result in a long-term increased energyintake and fat accumulation&quot&nbsp(Chan&amp Woo, 2011).

Theimplementation of obesity intervention programs is complicated by theobjectives of food industries that are not consistent with publichealth policies. Food processing industries are profit-oriented.Therefore, they pay less attention to ensuring their products aresafe. The increasing access to unhealthy foods makes it verychallenging to address the issue of obesity.

Obesitycan also be considered as a social problem based on the damage it hasinflicted the society. There are a number of epidemiological studiesthat clearly indicate the interplay between excess body weight,abdominal fat and high risk of life-threatening diseases. Diabetestype II has a strong association with obesity (Chan &amp Woo, 2011).An obese individual is also at high risk of suffering fromcardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, dyslipidemia,and hypertension. Obese people are also most likely to suffer fromimpaired glucose tolerance before the onset of type II diabetesmellitus. This phenomenon may lead to the loss of cognitive function(Alosco &amp Gunstad, 2014).

Researchhas also shown that obesity affects the bone turnover. According toCao (2011), increased body fat is associated with low total bonemineral content and total bone mineral density. Obesity is also asignificant problem for women in their reproductive age. This isbecause obese women in most cases are faced with infertility problemsthat come about as a result of excessive body fat.Theinsulin resistance in obese women causes abnormalities in theirreproductive system. Obesity suppresses the sex hormone-bindingglobulin and growth hormone while results in an increase in leptinlevels. Thus, the neuro-regulation of the reproductive systemmalfunctions. These interferences explain the abnormal ovulation andinfertility in some obese women.&nbsp(Dağ&amp Dilbaz, 2015).

Causesof Obesity

Obesityresults from an imbalance between energy expenditure and energyintake (Sahoo et al., 2015). Research studies have associated withthe increased risk to develop obesity.

FoodChoices and Obesity

Foodintake is one of the factors that have been studied as a possiblecontributor to obesity. Many people consume unhealthy foods such asbaked foods, chips, soft drinks and sweets among others. These foodsare very high in calories. If such foods are continuously consumedwithout regular physical exercise, individuals will gain a lot ofweight (Malik,Willett &amp Hu, 2013).Eventually, they will become obese. Food industries have made thesituation worse by producing unhealthy foods. Furthermore, theseproducts can easily be accessed by people due to their reducedprices. The study by Sahoo etal.(2015) shows that people eat a lot of food today compared to thepast. The consumption of unhealthy foods in large amounts leads tohigh-calorie intake that is responsible for obesity.


Physicalactivity is another contributing factor to obesity. According to theresearch conducted by Sahoo etal.(2015), every additional hour that is spent watching televisionincreases the likelihood of becoming obese by about 2%. A good numberof children spend most of their time watching television or playingvideo games. This is something that has reduced the amount ofphysical activity among children thereby increasing the risk ofdeveloping obesity in this age group. Research has also shown thatthere is an increased consumption of processed foods as childrenspend more and more time in front of a television (Sahoo et al.,2015). A sedentary lifestyle is, however, not a problem amongchildren alone since it is also a challenge among adults.

Inthe past when technology was not as advanced, people used to engagein a lot of manual labor. The manual work enabled them to burn a lotof calories. Obesity was almost inexistent several years back. In themodern world, technology has advanced so much that very little humaneffort is required to carry out various tasks. Most people spend moretime instructing a computer to perform several tasks than doing themphysically. The reduced physical activity level reduces the amount ofcalories burnt during work. Therefore, much of the food is convertedinto body fats (Malik,Willett &amp Hu, 2013).

Electronicmedia and television are the some of the contributing factors of asedentary lifestyle. However, other environmental factors havecontributed to the lack of physical activity among individuals. Oneof the reasons why most people are not physically active is becausethey lack opportunities to do so. This is mainly because safeenvironments have significantly reduced (Sahoo et al., 2015). In thepast, most people used to walk to work and school. This is not thecase today since most people consider walking a waste of time.Vehicles enable human beings to reduce the time taken when traveling.However, with increased insecurity and kidnapping cases today, mostpeople prefer to drive their children to school. Most people alsoprefer to drive to work because of safety reasons especially whenthey need to get off work very late. Such situations minimize theopportunities that individuals can use for physical exercise.

Socio-CulturalFactors and Obesity

Socio-culturalfactors also play a role in increasing the prevalence of obesity. Today’s society tends to use food as a way of rewarding people,socializing as well as controlling people (Sahoo et al., 2015). Theconsumption of traditional foods is fading in most societies in thismodern world. Due to globalization people have exchanged variouscultural practices including types of food and their preparation.Traditional foods had essential nutrients that promote healthy livingand increased embolic activities. The introduction of processed foodshas led to the reduction in the consumption of traditional foods.Modernization has increased the number of urban dwellers. In urbanareas, the access to traditional foods is limited. This phenomenonhas increased the consumption of processed foods. Most of theprocessed foods have a high content of fats and sugar. Most of thesecomponents are converted and stored as body fats.

PhysiologicalFactors and Obesity

Thereare ill-health conditions such as depression and stress thatincreases the risk of being obese (Blümeletal.,2015).Some people who suffer from depression and stress tend to eat a lotof food to find comfort. Individuals with low self-esteem also tendto have unhealthy eating habits. Such behaviors increase the chancesof being obese.


Anindividual`s family background also plays a significant role in theperson`s body weight. People who grow up eating healthy foods andengaging in a lot of physical activity have a lower risk of obesitycompared to individuals who have grown up eating unhealthy foods andliving a sedentary lifestyle (Blümeletal.,2015).Family mealtimes have also been seen to affect the amount and type offood people eat. People who occasionally have family mealtime aremore likely to eat healthy homemade foods compared to those who eatalone. This is mainly because family habits are easily adopted thechild (Sahoo et al., 2015).

Solutionsto the Obesity Problem

Inorder to eliminate obesity in society, there is a need for acomprehensive approach that engages a wide range of stakeholders.


Consumersare considered to be the most important players when it comes tosolving the issue of obesity because their choices about food andlifestyle are individualized (Nestle M. 2013). If consumers are givenenough nutritional information and easy access to healthy foods, itis believed that they will be able to tackle obesity at an individuallevel. Currently, the information that is available aboutcarbohydrates, calories, fat, and protein is not conclusive andconfuses a lot of consumers. Efforts should, therefore, be made toimprove the information available about obesity. This will enableconsumers to fully understand the problem thereby making lifestylechoices to prevent or control this issue.

FoodIndustry Role

FoodIndustries are also considered to be major players in obesity.Currently, the majority of the food industries focus on maximizingtheir profits. Very few are concerned with the production of foodsthat are consistent with public health policies. Most of theprocessed foods are energy-rich and unhealthy. When food industrieswould review their production activities and ensure that they areconsumer-centered, the fight against obesity in the society will havea great boost. The food industry is also encouraged to make acommitment to giving honest, clear and consistent product informationto consumers. Informed consumers will be in a position to makeappropriate choices. Legislation can help in making the processingplant to comply with public health requirements for their products.Restaurants and retailers should also ensure healthy their consumersget the best (Nestle M. 2013).

Roleof the Government

Oneway in which the government can be of help is by supportingcommunity-based organizations that are committed to achievingholistic health of people. If these organizations have sufficientfunds and favorable environment, they would be able to developstrategies that are specific to a given community. Such strategiesare effective due to the acceptance they receive from the community.The government is also encouraged to make food labeling arequirement. Factories that do not adhere to the rule should facepenalties. Another way the government can help in solving the obesityproblem is through health promotion that aims at educating citizensof benefits of physical activity and healthy eating behaviors (Sallisetal.,2012).The government is encouraged to provide incentives to food industriesthat enable them to produce healthier foods on a large scale.Investments in research and development (R&ampD) can also help inreducing the prevalence of obesity. RD enhances the development ofvarious methods achieving health lifestyle and foods.

Roleof Health Care Professionals

Consumerstend to have a lot of trust in health care providers. For thisreason, health care providers are advised to educate the community onthe ways of leading a healthy life. They will help in identifyingbehaviors that increase the prevalence of obesity. A lot of consumersare more likely to take the advice of health care professionalsbecause they trust them (Dietzetal.2015).

Roleof Education System

Thereisn’t a lot of emphasis on healthy living in schools in most partsof the world. The only students who get to learn detailed informationabout prevention and control of obesity are the ones who take acourse that is related to health and nutrition. Most students areclueless on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle during andafter school. Therefore, there is a need to review the educationsystem to ensure that health education is provided to every studentregardless of their course. Healthy living and nutrition ought to beincluded the school syllabus. This will enable people to learnthroughout their life and make healthy behaviors part of theirlifestyle (Dietzetal.2015).


Obesityis a social problem in many societies in the modern world. Manyefforts have been made to solve this issue, but it remains asignificant challenge. The most practical approach to addressing thisproblem is by using a comprehensive strategy that engages keystakeholders such as the government, the education system, foodindustries and health care professionals. If consumers are given easyaccess to a variety of healthy foods and an environment thatencourages physical activity is provided, the prevalence of obesitywill reduce significantly.


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