Obesity has become a worldwide endemic with a projected 1.3 billion people being obese. Its prevalence in developed nations, such as the USA, is as high as 26.6 percent in men and 32.2 percent in women above the age of 20 years. Furthermore, in the USA, more than 1 in 3 adults are considered to be obese. However, obesity is not only a problem for the affluent nations but is becoming an increasing concern in nations undergoing epidemiological transitions such as South Africa (Craig 34). However, although the cause and effects of the diseases are similar in the USA and South Africa, different strategies and approaches are used to address the health epidemic. This paper will explore the causes and effects of obesity and compare the strategies used in the USA and South Africa to control the epidemic.
More than a century-long research has shown a significant correlation between genetics and obesity. If a parent is obese, the danger of developing the obesity significantly increases. Besides, if obesity is present during early childhood, chances are high that a person will be obese throughout his or her life (Heinberg and John 98). Diet plays a critical role in the occurrence of obesity. Excessive calorie intake and high-fat diets promote fat accumulation more than carbohydrates because of the high energy density, palatability, metabolic efficiency, and weak satiating effect of fat. Lack of exercise is a key factor contributing to obesity. Obesity results from energy imbalances caused by excessive intake of calories without adequate exercising (Barbour 22). Therefore, obesity occurs when food consumption surpasses hysical activity; consequently, a large quantity of energy is stored in the body. Other additional factors with less influence include depression, lack of sleep, medication, and socio-cultural factor.
Obesity affects individuals, community, and the country. However, the biggest impact occurs on the individuals. Obesity has been linked to the occurrence of different life threatening medical conditions that include stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (Haerens 65). It further increases individual’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. Obesity is independent risk factor for heart diseases, sleep apnea, arthritis, and hypoxia. In the USA, obesity presents an emotional suffering since the society emphasizes physical appearance and equates attractiveness with slimness. In terms of the national economy, it is usually expensive for the government to offer advanced medical care for the obesity-related complications (Tsai et al. 54). Moreover, unhealthy individual are usually less productive, hence they become a burden to the economy.
Comparison of Intervention Strategies between the USA and South Africa
In the USA, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity describes the key strategies that are appropriate in addressing the problem. The strategies employed are categorized and organized including communication, action, research, and evaluation (CARE) (Levy-Navarro 32). The CARE strategies encompass the drive to ensure daily engagement in physical education at all school grades, promotion of low-fat and low-calories items, more vegetables, and non-ffat dairy products. Furthermore, CARE strategies encourage the development of more physical facilities to be available for all people to engage in physical activities. In short, it aims at reducing the number of people with sedentary lifestyle (Levy-Navarro 73).
On the contrary, in South Africa, the directorate of health promotion is mandated with the responsibility of raising awareness on the problem (World Health Organization 13). The department has established a multi-sectoral strategy aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and eliminating the false perception about obesity particularly among the youth (Dubé 76). Contrary to the concept of thinness embraced in the USA, obesity in South Africa has positive connotations within the black community. Obesity is perceived to symbolize beauty, happiness, and negative HIV/AID status (De 77). Therefore, the promotion campaign primary targets individuals with such beliefs. In support of the strategy, the Department of Health has initiated a surveillance program that pays attention to key health indicators such as blood pressure, physical activity, and BMI (Case and Alicia 26).
In conclusion, it is evident that the obesity is a global problem that affects individuals in different parts of the world. Moreover, it is apparent that the problem is not limited only to the affluent nations but also is spread in less developed nations on African continent. However, though the causes and effects of obesity are similar in the USA and South Africa, the two countries embrace different strategies to address the problem. The strategies used relate largely to the socio-cultural differences between the two nations.