Ecological Models Theory

Introduction

Globally, New Zealand is ranked third in the percentage of obese and overweight children in the OECD, the preceding being Italy and Greece. Of the total New Zealand children’s population, one-third of them are obese as compared to Australia, which has only one-quarter of the children being obese. Recent statistics show that 11% of New Zealand children are obese. Due to this high number that is continuously rising, a critical area of study has arisen, leading to the formulation of the KOALA program based in Australia. The program’s core aim is to analyze the various factors that are the main causes of childhood obesity and develop possible solutions for the same (Smibert, Abbort, 2010). KOALA’s main goals have only been realized through various health research models. Such models have been able to establish the main causes and come up with the available remedies to such problems. As mentioned in my previous article, my interest in child’s health and obesity arises from my experience as a nutritionist.

Ecological models theory and child obesity

Ecological models theory evaluates “…the interaction between and interdependence of, factors within and across all levels of a health problem. It highlights people’s interactions with their physical and sociocultural environments.” Various levels of influence on health patterns come into play under this theory and actively influence the rate of obesity in children. Prior studies under this model reported that the major influencing factors of childhood obesity were within the framework of the child’s home, school, and overall community. More studies linked childhood obesity to high maternal weight gain during pregnancy and high birth weights. Individuals born to overweight/obese parents are also at a greater risk of becoming obese during their childhood. A child with one obese parent has a 50 percent chance of being obese. When both parents are obese, their children have an 80 percent chance of obesity. Low income in a household is also accredited to higher BMI in children (Smibert, Abbort, 2010). An explanation for the so said is restraint in resources and hence lack of access to healthy food.

Individual factors or intrapersonal factors are the key players in this field. Such factors constitute personal behaviors, including personality, attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs. These directly influence the feeding and exercise habits of children and hence determine whether they are to become obese or not. Other key factors this theory reflects are interpersonal, organizational, and/or institutional, community, and public policy factors. Researchers say that interpersonal factors, which primarily constitute interactions with other people, are great determinants of whether a child will become obese or not (Laura,2014). This is because children are likely to fall into the steps of those around them and hence imitate most of their habits and, most importantly, their feeding habits. Under this factor also comes into question parent/guardian character who are the major determinants of the nature and quality of the food that the child feeds on and how they conduct their physical exercise activities. Institutional and/or organizational factors come into play when we think about “…where does the child attend school or are they brought up in collective organizations such as children’s homes. What are the feeding programs in such places?” (De Onis, Blössner & Borghi, 2010). Previous studies have shown how effective a healthy school model improves healthy eating and physical activities. Such school models play a dynamic role in reducing obesity among school kids.

The selection of this model was solely reliant on the fact that a child’s health is entirely determined by their internal and external environment. Research has, however, proven that, for a child to become obese, his/her parents or guardians are the key causes as they are the immediate environment of the child’s life. This emanates from the fact that a child has little or no choice on what he is to feed on, as such decisions are entirely for the family heads to make. This theory consequently offers a wide range of research areas for my topic, hence the choice. The research areas it offers also give detailed information with deep clarity to the main questions posed by the topic.

Evaluation of the KOALA Program using Ecological models theory

Kinder Overweight Activity Lifestyle Actions, abbreviated as KOALA, is a program that was formulated in Australia to analyze the various factors that are the major causes of childhood obesity, pinpointing environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors (Lee et al., 2010). Ecological models theory provides a clear basis for study regarding environmental and behavioral factors. Results from such studies can be implemented on the lifestyles of children so as to impact their lives positively by improving their feeding habits resulting in reduced obesity. Since the major aim of the KOALA program was to motivate improvement in the health and fitness of the whole family, results from ecological models can be used as educative tools to impact the desired change.

This theory also brings into the limelight organizations and institutions as they are the second largest players in the lives of children after their parents and guardians. Children spend a considerable amount of time during their growth in these places. The professors in this program visited institutions that are actively involved in the upbringing of children to identify dangerous trends marked as pre-clinical biomarkers for complications that could arise from obesity. Institutions that portrayed such trends attracted governmental and non-governmental organizations’ interventions to eradicate the risks. With the various methodologies provided by this theory, well-conducted research and studies should provide all the desired answers to accomplish KOALA’s goals.

Implications on the individual

Since the main aim of the KOALA project was to “…pilot a social change that could transform the entire obesity landscape in Australia,” (Smibert, Abbort, 2010), individual children were the key figures to be researched on. Ecological models theory aids in unveiling the key individual factors that contribute to the high cases of obesity among children. Once unearthed, such factors help formulate remedies that, amongst other uses, help reduce cases of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, amongst other diseases that emanate from obesity. This theory also facilitates the improvement of living standards and increases the overall lifespan of such children when such diseases are controlled by obesity reduction.

Implications for the community

Study results from ecological models also have vital implications for the community from which an obese or not-obese child comes. Since the theory also puts into consideration factors from the community level that plays a role in causing obesity among children, the determination of remedies for such factors is crucial. From a different perspective, once results from this theory are used to reduce instances of obesity amongst children, cases of neglect and stigmatization become stories of the past. This is accomplished by positively changing and improving the community’s perception of all children. In a nutshell, this model plays a crucial role in boosting the self-esteem of; previously obese children and those it protects from becoming obese. Therefore, the productivity of children at a community level is boosted greatly.

Implications for the nation

The key aim of this model is to reduce the cases of childhood obesity in society to as low as possible and again come up with educative programs that will significantly reduce instances of new obesity amongst children. Obesity which altogether brings about more complicated health conditions to children suffering from it, is considered a national concern; Reason because diseases arising from obesity end up consuming considerably huge amounts of government revenue through the provision of advanced medical care and medication to such children (Wang, Lim, 2012). These diseases include cardiovascular complications, a major threat to a child’s life. This model is therefore considered advantageous to the larger society by helping eradicate obesity amongst children, and thus, such funds could be used to run development projects in the nation.

References

  • De Onis, M., Blössner, M., & Borghi, E. (2010). Global prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity among preschool children–. The American journal of clinical nutrition92(5), 1257-1264.
  • D’MELLO, G. I. S. E. L. L. E., Chia, L., Hamilton, S. D., Thomson, W. M., & Drummon, B. K. (2011). Childhood obesity and dental caries among paediatric dental clinic attenders. International journal of paediatric dentistry21(3), 217-222.
  • Laura Dawes. (2014.) Childhood Obesity in America: Biography of an Epidemic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • O’Dea, J. and Eriksen, M. (2010). Childhood obesity prevention: International Research, Controversies, and Interventions.
  • Phelps, k. and Hassed, C. (2012). Child Health & Development. London: Elsevier Health Sciences APAC
  • Pulgarón, E. R. (2013). Childhood obesity: a review of increased risk for physical and psychological comorbidities. Clinical Therapeutics35(1), A18-A32.
  • Smibert, A., Abbott, R., Macdonald, D., Hogan, A., & Leong, G. (2010). School, community, and family working together to address childhood obesity: Perceptions from the KOALA lifestyle intervention study. European Physical Education Review16(2), 155-170.
  • Wang, Y., & Lim, H. (2012). The global childhood obesity epidemic and the association between socio-economic status and childhood obesity.