Obesity in Virginia
Obesity is a rising health concern in the US. The rate of obesity has increased gradually over the last two decades leading to significant healthcare problems such as diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease. The problem develops primarily from unhealthy feeding practices and variations in physical activity.
The problem affects populations and states differently, and assessing the health status of one’s state will help determine the performance of the state relative to other states to prevent the problem. Understanding the burden of obesity will also help in planning for its management and prevention. This essay analyzes obesity in Virginia.
Cancers Associated with Obesity
Obesity is associated with an increased risk for 8% of all cancers and is among the leading modifiable risk factors for cancer, and only second after tobacco (Lee, 2022). The association between cancer and obesity and cancer is complex, and the most common etiologies are high insulin, hormone levels, and chronic inflammation secondary to cancer leading to cell hyperproliferation in response to the hormones or to replace the lost cells.
Some of these cancers associated with obesity are rare. Lee (2022) notes that the common cancers associated with obesity include breast, colorectal, renal, endometrial, thyroid, and pancreatic cancers. These cancers are rising due to the increase in obesity prevalence nationwide.
Childhood Obesity Rates and Risk in Virginia
Obesity is a national problem, and the rates have been increasing gradually over the years despite the national and international efforts in this age of technology. The national prevalence of obesity lies at 41.9% and has increased gradually over the last two decades from 30.5%. The rate of severe obesity has doubled in the same period (4.7%-9.2%) (CDC, 2022). The CDCD (2022) also notes that national obesity among children below 18 years lies at 19.5%, which is highly alarming. These values vary depending on the body producing the numbers and the years of production.
The state of Virginia’s rate of childhood obesity has increased over the last decade from about 23.4% in 2007 to about 18% in 2020 (Brito et al., 2019). Obesity is highest among high-scholars and children between 10-17 years (14.9% and 21.9%, respectively) (State of Childhood Obesity, 2020). Children in high school-adolescents are at the highest risk for obesity.
At this age, they have a high appetite, and their bodies require a lot of activity; poor physical activity is the most important factor in obesity among high-schoolers. Obesity among children in Virginia is moderate due to rigorous activity, but much attention is still required for childhood obesity.
Policies, Laws, and Policies Related to Childhood Obesity in Virginia
Virginia Obesity, Health, and Nutrition programs exist, and their primary goal is to prevent obesity among children Policies affecting child obesity include those affecting the hours of physical activity required for children and the availability of healthy foods. The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youths is a program that gives grants to then Healthy Community Action teams that increase children’s activity through interventions such as buying activity gears and tools (such as bicycles), increasing their activities, and preventing obesity.
This and similar programs also fund structures and infrastructure such as parks and running trails that facilitate the activity of the younger population. The Virginia State Health Department supports these programs. Hagedorn et al. (2018) note that teen-led interventions and youth mobilization have also been a leading strategy in programs preventing obesity.
The Virginia state government requires children in primary and high schools to be active and strictly adhere to physical activity lessons to be included in the curriculum (State of Childhood Obesity, 2020). The state stipulates the minimum hours children should be active in elementary school but lacks self-updating standards related to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) (State of Childhood Obesity, 2020).
The government also gives grants to schools to support obesity management programs such as purchasing play items such as balls and uniforms to promote utilizing physical exercises, the major intervention in reducing and preventing obesity.
These laws, policies, and programs effectively manage obesity but face resistance in many areas. A major hindrance to implementing these policies is the lack of legal backing (Murphy et al., 2020). Most of these policies are not backed up by laws, or these laws are not strong enough to propel their undisputed implementation. Physical activity and purchasing healthy foods lie basically on the preferences of young individuals and their parents.
Fulfilling these laws thus requires the persuasion of young men to involve in physical activities and parents and schools to provide time for play and healthy food. Another major challenge facing these policies is the inconsistencies in determining the major objectives (Murphy et al., 2020). These policies can target prevention or treatment, and they override. The lack of clear objectives for obesity makes their implementation and evaluation difficult hence a lack of data to back their continuity or support.
Virginia state has a rising obesity statistic, but rigorous governmental and non-governmental efforts have helped reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity compared to other US states. Childhood obesity is a predictor of the child’s healthy state; preventing obesity will help prevent many chronic illnesses and improve the health of the younger population. The state should also develop clear policies with legal implications on managing childhood obesity to help improve these efforts.
Brito, F. A., Zoellner, J. M., Hill, J., You, W., Alexander, R., Hou, X., & Estabrooks, P. A. (2019). From Bright Bodies to I Choose: Using a CBPR Approach to Develop Childhood Obesity Intervention Materials for Rural Virginia. SAGE Open, 9(1), 2158244019837313. https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019837313
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Overweight and Obesity. Adult Obesity Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
Hagedorn, R. L., White, J. A., Franzen-Castle, L., Colby, S. E., Kattelmann, K. K., White, A. A., & Olfert, M. D. (2018). Teens implementing a childhood obesity prevention program in the community: feasibility and perceptions of a partnership with HSTA and iCook 4-H. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 15(5), 934. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15050934
Lee, H. (2022). Obesity-Associated Cancers: Evidence from Studies in Mouse Models. Cells, 11(9), 1472. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11091472
Murphy, E., Bowen, E., O’Hara-Tompkins, N., Crum, G., Fincham, H., & Burkhart-Polk, M. E. (2020). Early Childhood Obesity Prevention in Rural West Virginia Extension’s Role and Lessons Learned. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 8(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.54718/TPIC6446
State of Childhood Obesity (2020). State Obesity Data Ranked by Highest Obesity Rate: 10-17 yr-olds (2019-2020). https://stateofchildhoodobesity.org/states/
Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY), (n.d.). Childhood Obesity Prevention. https://www.vfhy.org/programs/obesity/