Health Disparities & Obesity

Health Disparities & Obesity

As we learned in class, the Socio-Ecological Model shows how different levels of society are affected by a variety of health issues, with its main focus on the public policy aspect of it. There’s no doubt that many health disparities continue to exist in the world today with larger issues more known to us such as social injustice and health care coverage, yet sometimes we forget that other issues such as obesity or geographical location have a large impact on health disparities as well.

One example of a health care disparity that many continue to face today is the lack of healthy food options in our communities that ultimately lead us to make poor food choices on a daily basis. In relation to the Socio-Ecological model, an individual may choose to depend on fast-food chains due to limited income or easy accessibility to these places. In addition, having these fast food options is efficient for us to simply grab food to-go and continue on with our busy lives which is one of the reason why many people turn to this lifestyle. Following the personal level, it then spreads to the relationship/interpersonal level where the individual’s closest social circle, partners, and family members become influenced by their behavior and start to experience similar lifestyles. And as a result, these poor food choices can lead to obesity if proper exercise is not consistently maintained. Lastly, the public policy / societal aspect is looked at as we seek to identify the characteristics of these settings that are associated with poor health choices, and why many people so easily fall victim to this.

There are many smaller issues that can lead to health disparities and making poor food choices is just one of many. Although we might not consider it a big deal, these unhealthy lifestyles can lead to larger issues for many low-income individuals such as a high risk of obesity and/or the inability to receive adequate quality care, which in turn can lead to poorer health outcomes. These small issues may not seem significant compared to the social injustice of minority groups we hear about all over the news, yet it’d be foolish of us to ignore them until they become an even larger issue.

Some of the key initiatives that are helping to reduce health disparities are the 2011 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Disparities Action Plan, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Disparities Action Plan sets out a series of priorities, strategies, actions, and goals to achieve a vision of “a nation free of disparities in health and health care”. On the other hand, the ACA helps to increase coverage option for low-and moderate-income populations and includes other provisions to address disparities. One way we can personally address health disparities is by making smarter choices about our diet and thinking of the long-term effects caused by these. Healthy eating is not necessarily about strict dietary limitations, but also about depriving ourselves of the unnecessary, fattening foods we love. If we can educate our communities about the importance of eating healthier, obesity rates wouldn’t be as profound an issue and poor health outcomes wouldn’t be as prominent in the world.

5 thoughts on “Health Disparities & Obesity

  1. Your post is such a great read. I really liked your ideas about what factors cause obesity and the disparities you included. For people with low socioeconomic statuses eating healthy is nearly impossible. It is a sad fact that certain groups are more susceptible to obesity due to some of the societal norms you mentioned i.e poor health choices and healthy food costs. I enjoyed how you tied obesity into a bigger health picture because I had not really considered the intersection of obesity and low-income status. After reading your post I considered the low percentage of low-income people with adequate health care and the issue seemed even more severe.

    A preventative method I would like to see implemented is something on the societal level. I believe that changing the cultural norms surrounding obesity is an effective way to make it more applicable to a larger population of our country. As it is now, there is a lot of stigma surrounding being overweight, yet not a lot of emotional or motivational support. Currently, most health motivation comes in the form of physical appearance instead of actual healthy living. I believe that if states sponsored media campaigns that showed show the benefits of making healthy choices, the option would motivate more people. The media is important in this aspect because it is a tool that can spread information widely across our country. Exercises, like walking or jogging, can be accomplished regardless of SES and can lead people to healthier lifestyles. There are many resources that can help people with low income make healthy choices, and it is just a matter of making those sources readily available to the people who need them.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post! I liked how you talked about food and how much our diet affects our health. Like you said, many people with a lower socioeconomic status don’t have access to low-cost healthy foods. I think this is a big problem and it causes obesity and many other problems that stem from obesity. Fixing this issue by bringing in healthy foods to low income families and areas would greatly increase the level of health in our country as a whole.

  3. I agree with you that it is so easy to live an unhealthy lifestyle due to the fact that fast-food chains are so simple and quick for people who are so busy throughout the day. This food is also much cheaper than other healthier possibilities, so for lower-income families, unhealthy food may be the only option they have to choose from. Many people spread awareness about appropriate food that would be a necessary component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but when doing this they assume that healthy food is available to everyone. The sad fact is that not everyone can afford them. Instead of just preaching the food that people must eat to be healthy, actions must be taken to actually provide lower-income people with the nutrition that they need. Until concrete actions are taken to help lower socioeconomic families live healthier lifestyles, this health disparity will continue to affect the country.

  4. Your post an insights are very relevant to our society today! I witness unhealthy eating habits in myself and in most of my friends and family, and each person seems to have his or her own place on a spectrum of how healthy his or her food choices are. Fast food is addictive; I find myself craving it often- especially if I’ve had a tough day. Like you noted, there are so many tempting reasons to indulge in fast food: convenient time, convenient location, cheap, satisfying. However, I thought it was great that you also pointed out that these are not the only reasons that fast food is a problem in our society. Eating a 100% healthy diet would be very expensive, and for many people and families, it isn’t affordable. Therefore, low to mid-income people and families survive off of food that is fattening yet inexpensive. They do not have a choice. I think that many people don’t realize that low income can be a serious cause for obesity, and that is why the problem is not getting much better.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post! There is definitely a lot of stigma attached to being overweight and fast food as a whole. The sad truth is that many low income communities have easier access to fast food restaurants rather than other healthy, but expensive restaurants. There is no easy way to cure obesity because its origins are ingrained in American society. However, in some cases, obesity can be prevented. It can be prevented by allowing people in low income communities easier access to low cost healthy foods. It may be difficult, but it is important for people to have equal access to resources that can potentially help them be healthy and function regularly. The first step is always the hardest, but I believe if we do this, obesity could be prevented in the future.

Leave a Reply