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Epidemiology of Obesity in Teens - Epidemiology: Global and Public Health

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Epidemiology of Obesity in Teens

Epidemiology: Global and Public Health


Epidemiology of Obesity in Teens

The purpose of this paper is to describe the epidemiology of obesity in teens, a vulnerable group. Demographic information, research data, both medical/health and demographic data will be reviewed. The reasons why obese teens are considered vulnerable and factors that affect the vulnerability of this group will be examined. How characteristics of this group influence the probability of becoming obese will be presented. Cultural, ethical, and legal considerations will be identified as they relate to health maintenance for those with obesity.

Definition and Description of Epidemiology

The study of epidemiology is centered on the how and why of disease, illness, and injury. Epidemiologists are not only detectives in the study of diseases but are interested in why specific health problems are experienced in one geographic area, a specific population, and the frequency and rate of disease (Epidemiology in Community Health Care. (n.d.). ). Epidemiology is considered a science and research is an important facet to determining the many factors that affect disease Epidemiologist's have more than one method of investigating disease and include descriptive epidemiology, analytic, and experimental (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012).

Methods of Epidemiology

Descriptive epidemiology according to "Introduction To Epidemiology" (2004), is the science that investigates the "who, when, where, and time" regarding the person who is affected by a particular illness or health condition. Analytical epidemiology, after assessing descriptive epidemiology, investigates questions of "how and why" these particular individuals were affected with a health condition or illness ("Introduction To Epidemiology", 2004). Stanhope & Lancaster, (2012) describe descriptive epidemiology as investigating the patterns of a disease or health event and what events or "determinant" influence these patterns (p. 256). Analytical epidemiology on the other hand, according to Stanhope & Lancaster (2012) is the process used to understand the "etiology" of disease that lead to policies of local programs aimed at improving the health of the public (p. 256).

Steps of Epidemiology

The first step for determining if a health condition or event, outbreak of illness, or disease is present is surveillance. Surveillance includes both active and passive monitoring. Passive surveillance is considered the data that is reported to health departments such as a death or sexually transmitted disease. Active surveillance includes data actively collected by public health department employees (Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness UC Berkeley School of Public Health, 2006). Data are gathered from numerous sources and include data collected from birth/death records, US Census records, laboratory reports, medical examiner reports and vital statistics.

Public health nurses and other health providers have criteria regarding reporting for specific diseases, symptoms, concerns for an outbreak or a disease or health event that has potential to harm the greater population. The Centers for Disease has an "Electronic Telecommunications System for Surveillance" that allows states to send data to weekly (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012).

Once it is determined, through surveillance that a health condition or disease outbreak is present epidemiologists complete a descriptive and analytical study. This study include measures of specific determinates of the health condition being researched. From this data a hypotheses is developed and evaluated. Epidemiologists have the information necessary (through their research and study or a health condition) to develop and employ prevention measures. The outcome of the data collected is communicated to government and other pertinent agencies that have resources and authority to guide or make policies to improve the health of populations ("Steps Of An Outbreak Investigation", 2004).

Epidemiological Triangle

Epidemiologists, when determining the factors or relationships regarding a specific disease or health event focus on three elements, "agent, host, and environment, called the "epidemiologic triangle" (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2012, p. 264). This triangle is one method for tracking or predicting a specific disease or health condition. The ability to predict susceptibility of a disease permits strategies to be implemented for prevention.

Overview of Obesity in Teens

Obesity of children and teens in the United States is estimated at 12.5 million, 17% of the population ("CDC Grand Rounds: Childhood Obesity in the United States," 2011). Obesity is defined as 20% over their ideal weight or a BMI greater than 25% ("Health Problems, Teen Obesity," 2012). Teens who come from single head of households, and lower economic status are more likely to be obese than their counterparts. Williams (2004) reported that for each "$10,000 increase in family income...being overweight decreased by about 3%" (p. 2). Children are less likely to be overweight or obese if their parents have obtained higher education (Williams, 2004).

Characteristics of Vulnerability

Teens that are obese and overweight are more likely to be isolated, have fewer friends, suffer from depression, and experience anxiety (Fonseca, Matos, Guerra, &Pedro, 2009). This group is also at greater risk for being picked on as children, or as the perpetrator of picking on other children according to "Health Problems, Teen Obesity," 2012, para. 5.). This further leads to eroding self-esteem causing unhappiness that in turn increase consumption of high calorie foods confounding the problem. According to Foseca, et al. (2009) obese teens were more likely to suffer health problems that prevented them from engaging in the same activities as their peers.

Overweight and obese children risk being obese as teenagers and adults that lead to many physical and mental health problems. Kotchen, (2010) reports that obesity in children and teens correlates to higher blood readings eventually leading to hypertension (p. 3). Obesity is associated with numerous other health risks as well such heart disease, diabetes, arthritis,



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