Adult Obesity In The United States Of America

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Obesity means having excess body fat. The weight comes from muscle, bone, fat, and body water.11 Obesity-related conditions are heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and certain types of cancer that lead to preventable or premature death.1-2,11 It occurs due to the consumption of a high number of calories compared to the required number of calories per day. The factors that affect weight or obesity are genetic makeup, mental health, overeating habit, consumption of high-fat foods, and lack of physical activity.11

Obesity is considered a common health issue among children and adults. Approximately 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 6 children and adolescents are obese.10 From 2015 to 2016, the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and around 93.3 million US adults were affected.2 A 2016 study investigated that the estimated healthcare costs range from $147 billion to $210 billion per year.12

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An Ecological Model

The ecological theory of health states that the development of health is mainly based on the day-to-day interaction between the people and the surrounding environment.13 The effects of these interactions are different for all individuals.13

According to Healthy Campus 2020, an ecological approach for any health condition focuses on population-level and individual-level determinants of health, intervention, and prevention.7 It also improves the health of students, faculties and staff members. It also determines the problems based on a community. In the ecological model, health is determined by the factors at multiple levels such as public policy, community, institutional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal factors.7 In this model, health status and behaviors are the outcomes of interests that are viewed and examined.7 Each factor is important and plays a vital role in the risk of adult obesity. This model makes us understand how and where these factors are applicable in a person’s life.

1. Intrapersonal Factor:

The intrapersonal factor of the Ecological Model is mainly based on a person’s views, perception, and knowledge.3 The research states that there was a shift in perception of obesity in 2014, as the result indicates that obesity has been viewed as a community problem.3 Healthcare professionals view obesity as a personal problem of bad choices. For example, if people think that they are not at a high risk of obesity then they would not improve their lifestyle. The knowledge also affects one’s life if that person does not have basic knowledge or information about healthy diet and obesity.3

2. Interpersonal Factor:

Physical activity is the main influence of any adult.4 The influence from friends and families on an adult’s physical activity might result positively or negatively. According to the research, obesity is related to interpersonal relationships i.e. verbal victimization, lack of friends and family support, lack of social support, and relationship issues.4 The data states that obese females are more physically victimized than non-obese females. The research also concludes that the more people engage in physical activity, the more improved their healthy lifestyle will be.4 Also, health educators must encourage people who do not have a strong connection with friends and families, and no social support, to become more involved in physical activity and to consume healthy food.

3. Institutional and Organizational Factor:

College has been the main factor for the higher risk of adult obesity.8 The students who are busy in classes, part-time or full-time jobs, assignments, and friends, tend to become obese. There are many weight-based interventions programs for obesity that might reduce the risk of obesity among students and the students would remain physically and mentally active.8

The WORD (Wholeness, Oneness, Righteousness, Deliverance) is a faith-based weight loss program that supports communities and churches of faith.8 The program states that small groups were led by community-trained members and encourages them to engage in a healthy lifestyle, healthy nutrition, physical activity, and faith’s connection with health.8 Although faith does not play a key role in childhood or adult obesity, it is important to address that faith-based programs can reduce the higher risk of obesity.8

4. Community Factor:

The community factor states that people or families can make decisions based on their community.1To reduce the risk of adult obesity, we need to build an environment that can make people engage in a healthy lifestyle, physical activity, and consumption of healthy diet food.1

Socioeconomic status has a huge impact on adult obesity. Healthier foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods.5 Adults with a low socioeconomic status tend to buy unhealthy foods. Therefore, there is a higher risk of obesity among adults with a lower socioeconomic status.5 According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the price of food affects the quality of food. It has a large effect on healthy food items that are expensive.5 For example, healthy food with a low calories is expensive compared to that unhealthy food that has a high calorie, added sugar, and saturated fats in it.

Adults with a low socioeconomic status tend to be physically inactive.1 Not all adults get easy access to health insurance. For example, it is a person’s decision whether he or she should walk or bike to the store due to the lack of sidewalks.1 An improved community, health care, house, school, and workplace do influence a person’s behavior on daily basis. The community should be developed and improved so that the people become physically active and live healthy life. Health educators must encourage students or adults that a healthy lifestyle might be expensive, but it is necessary to decrease the high rates of obesity.1

5. Public Policy Factor:

Public policy does affect the risk of obesity.6 If the taxes are raised on certain junk foods or drinks, then some people may buy them less. However, it depends on all individuals whether they want to buy junk food or not. The implementation of junk foods tax as an intervention has an impact on people to counter the increased risk of obesity in North America.6 In 2013, World Health Organization- Food and Agricultural Organization report states that the cost and the pricing of healthy foods were the main problem for the increased risk of obesity among adults.6 The consumption of unhealthy or junk foods was more due to their low cost. A junk food tax would decrease the consumption of unhealthy food and encourage the importance of a healthy lifestyle.9

Since 1980, the main goal of national public health policy was the prevention of obesity among individuals and population groups.9 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides education in schools, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) develops a mass-media campaign to educate people about the food labels, and the National Institute of Health (NIH) funds workshops and programs on obesity.9 The more people are involved, the stronger would be the intervention programs.


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  3. Americans’ view on obesity is changing: Fewer adults see it as a personal problem of bad choices. (2014, November 5). Retrieved from ScienceDaily:
  4. Ames, M., & Leadbeater, B. (2016, May 13). Overweight and isolated: The interpersonal problems of youth who are overweight from adolescence into young adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41(3), 390-404. doi:
  5. Carlson, A., & Frazao, E. (2012, May 1). Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends on How You Measure the Price. Retrieved from United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service:
  6. Franck, C., Grandi, S. M., & Eisenberg, M. J. (2013, November). Taxing Junk Food to Counter Obesity. American Journal of Public Health, 1949–1953. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301279
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  8. Kim, K. H.-c., Linnan, L., Campbell, M. K., Brooks, C., Koenig, H. G., & Wiesen, C. (2006, August 2). The WORD (Wholeness, Oneness, Righteousness, Deliverance): A Faith-Based Weight-Loss Program Utilizing a Community-Based Participatory Research Approach. SAGE Journals, 35(5), 634-650. Retrieved from
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  11. Obesity. (2019, September 4). Retrieved from MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You.:
  12. Warren, M., Beck, S., & Delgado, D. (2019). The State of Obesity: BETTER POLICIES FOR A HEALTHIER AMERICA 2019. Washington: Trust for America’s Health. Retrieved from The State of Obesity:
  13. Who will keep the public healthy? Educating public health professionals for the 21st century. (2003). Retrieved from Institute of Medicine:


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