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PREVENTING CHILDHOOD OBESITY 1

Food Sources and Gyms for a Healthier Community

Rhiannon Worker

Arizona State University

Abstract
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This paper proposes to solve the childhood obesity rate for Latino youth in low-income

communities that have limited access to adequate grocery stores and physical activity resources.

It aims to persuade the organization YMCA and Food City to place their resources to

communities in need, so they will be available, accessible, and affordable. This paper proclaims

that this act will help push the healthy lifestyle for Latino youth and families to live a healthier

lifestyle.

Keywords: Childhood obesity, Latino youth, communities, food environment

Preventing Obesity through Food Environment and Physical Activity
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The Latino population is growing rapidly nationally and globally. They are among the

highest minority groups for school dropouts, teen pregnancy, and are the third leading racial

group for childhood obesity. Since they are one of the leading racial groups for childhood obesity

(22.4%) and are still rapidly growing, they are the target for a lot of public health professionals

and researchers. Having adequate food supply has been proven to have a distinct connection with

the overall health of a community. (Mowen, 2010). Research has shown that food deserts, which

are areas that lack adequate nutritious food have a correlation with higher chances of becoming

obese. A scenario may include a family who are aware of how important it is to eat a healthy diet

and have daily exercise, however, if the food resources and physical activity is hard to access,

then the more difficult it will be for them to live a healthy lifestyle. As a human, I would like to

see every human being live a long, happy, and healthful life because everyone deserves that,

regardless of who they are. However, sometimes that is not bound to happen due to an endless

list of genetics, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise, and so on. Many may panic and act like it is

impossible to reverse this epidemic or even ignore that this is not a huge issue.

What’s at stake is obesity does not only affect children on the weight of a scale. It can

also harm a child’s self esteem, almost every system in their body such as heart, lungs, muscle

and digestive tract. In addition, having obesity at a young age increases the risk for disabilities

and death. Childhood obesity is highly preventable, especially if food sources with adequate

fruits and vegetables are available and affordable. Plus, having physical activity like gyms can be

a way to promote fitness. Some communities, specifically those who have no access to gyms or

grocery stores will have a difficult time finding ways to live a healthy lifestyle. This concludes

me to reach out to food and gym marketing companies because these populated areas are in

desperate need of adequate food sources and gyms. I propose that grocery stores and physical
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activity companies should focus on making changes that will make them available, affordable,

and accessible in these low-income Latino communities.

After a semester of research of childhood obesity, I propose making grocery stores and

physical activity resources accessible, affordable, and available. To help this proposal become

more realistic, the focus for a grocery store will be Food City. As for the gym, it will be the

YMCA organization. These companies have been chosen because they are known to be targeted

toward Latinos. The addition of these two sources will increase the chances of healthy lifestyles

for communities in need.

There are thousands of communities that have a high prevalence in obesity, especially

communities that are limited to healthy lifestyle resources. How are they to blame when it is not

their entire fault for being overweight? For instance, you may be told by a professor to write an

essay that is meant to persuade an audience. The problem with this task is it would be assigned

without a prompt or guideline. As a regular student, you may have a general idea of how to write

the essay, but since you were not given the resources needed to help guide you, it would be very

difficult to complete the task. This type of example applies to families who are told by many

doctors about being more aware of losing weight. How are families who are obese or overweight

suppose to live a healthy lifestyle if the resources like grocery stores and gyms are not there? It

really is not logical. I feel not many doctors and health physicians understand this concept in

these vulnerable low-income communities. It is very easy to tell a person to lose weight and send

them on their way. This may sound simple, but there is much more to telling an individual to lose

weight. It is also not realistic to have a person run on a treadmill for hours throughout the day

and force them to only eat salad throughout their day. As much as many people believe this is all
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a person should do, are not fully aware of how environment plays a role in the goal to lose

weight.

As a nutrition major, being able to solve this obesity epidemic would be a dream come

true. Being able to witness the world become healthier and more physically active would be

almost similar to achieving a 4.0 at the end of a college career, or even winning an NBA

championship. Of course, this is going to take a lot of effort, dedication, and even teamwork for

that to happen. It is long and heavy process, however, like many scholars have said “everything

takes time and dedication.” Applying the process of school, sports, or any goal a person may

have can also apply to ending chronic diseases.

For this case, it is childhood obesity. In order to make the goal of preventing and

reducing the risk of obesity, it has to be a team effort. For example, in any sport there will always

be a coach and team. They work together hand in hand in hopes to come out with the big W. In

the prevention for childhood obesity case, the coach will be the researchers and public health

professionals. The team will be the community and people themselves. They must work side by

side to prevent current and future obesity.

I am interested in potential ways of how the environment plays a critical role in

childhood obesity. I chose to focus on childhood obesity because they are our future leaders. At

an early age, they are learning habits that will carry them onto the rest of their lives. “Obesity

rates among adults and children in the United States have steadily risen in the past few decades.

About 18.4 percent of 12-19-year-olds are overweight or obese and childhood obesity often

continues into adulthood..” (2015.) Research indicates children who are obese are more

susceptible to continuing the disease into their adulthood which is also why I chose to focus on
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children. Focusing on making grocery stores and physical activity resources such as parks and

gyms will help alleviate this obesity epidemic.

There have been many attempts to solve childhood obesity. Past efforts include health

professionals going into schools and only directing change toward children, adding physical

activity equipment in schools but not nutrition information, only studying the evolution of food

production, providing salad bars in schools for underserved children. These are minimal

solutions that have been used to help prevent childhood obesity, however, there is an important

piece missing. To achieve a long lasting sustainable program, there must be an approach that

targets the child, family, community, and policy as a whole. There are numerous intervention

programs that have been successful or failed. The reason why they have failed because the

intervention program did not consider barriers of the poor quantity of food and physical activity

environment.

I chose to focus my solution on the environment because without the necessary resources

you can not have the best possible outcome. I understand the environment of a community is out

of the doctors control. This is why I have decided to reach out to supermarkets and gym

corporations. Another reason why I chose the environment is because since these communities

do not have resources to live a healthy lifestyle in the first place, how are they suppose to react

when there is a program telling them to change habits?

Food insecurity and the difficulty of eating a well-balanced diet and exercising is hard

for almost every American. But those who are food insecure and low-income face more

obstacles in sustaining a healthful lifestyle. As Larson stated, Low-income neighborhoods

frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a

variety of high-quality fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products (Beaulac et
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al., 2009; Larson et al., 2009; Bell et al., 2013).“ Since the low-income communities have hardly

any access to grocery stores, they are most likely going to be limited to a corner store like a gas

station or convenience store.

If the food sources are available, there will be another problem as to whether they will be

affordable. “When adequate grocery stores and available, healthy food may be more expensive

compared to refined grains, added sugars, and fats are inexpensive.” (Aggarwal et al., 2012;

Darmon & Drewnowski, 2015; DiSantis et al., 2013; Drewnowski, 2010.) Since these families

who are already low-income will have a hard time purchasing healthful foods. It makes sense to

stretch out your dollar and buy what will get you more quantity. They will often try to buy as

much food as possible that is inexpensive, cheap, and less nutrient dense. In quotation, “While

less expensive, energy-dense foods typically have lower nutritional quality, and because of

overconsumption of calories, have been linked to obesity.” (Kant & Graubard, 2005; Perez-

Escamilla et al., 2012).

Regarding physical activity resources, there has been a correlation with food insecurity

and physical activity. There are fewer opportunities in these low-income areas to exercise or be

active. Numerous studies have revealed higher-income communities have more parks and gyms

to be active. In 2010, a study stated “Lower income neighborhoods have fewer physical activity

resources than higher income neighborhoods, including fewer parks, green spaces, and

recreational facilities, making it difficult to lead a physically active lifestyle.” (Mowen, 2010). It

is not surprising physical activity and food insecurity have a correlation, given that many

environmental barriers to physical activity occur in low-income communities.

I would like to raise some major counterclaims that have been inspired by the skeptic in

me. I have been ignoring the complexities in the situation. I am trying to find a solution to
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increase the frequency of grocery stores and physical activity resources for low-income

communities, but have not really mentioned what barriers these companies need to go through in

order to place their company there. Yet, is it necessarily true that the factors and steps of placing

an organization in a specific area will solve childhood obesity? Is it always the case, as I have

been suggesting, that these companies are able to provide markets and physical activity resources

that are available, accessible, and affordable? Of course, many will probably disagree on the

grounds that these low-income communities that are prevalent in childhood obesity are not able

to purchase groceries or gym memberships because they are not making a sufficient income.

Some people would rather have non-nutritious food than nutritious food, even if it was

available to them. Our national food system is comprised of fast food, sugary drinks, energy

drinks, high amounts of fat and sodium. My view is that these areas that are low-income minority

communities may be abundant in grocery stores and physical activity resources, yet would not be

educated enough to know what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. Companies may overlook

what I consider an important point about childhood obesity in low-income communities. I

wholeheartedly support a company's question, which may be “will adding these grocery stores

and physical activity resources be the answer to preventing childhood obesity?” The evidence

shows that in order to help make a healthy impact for children is to have obesity prevention

programs that will be framed around family, community, and policy. Adding the grocery stores

and physical activity resources only accounts for community and policy at once. So, to answer

that question, only adding grocery stores and physical activity resources will not fully prevent

childhood obesity. There has to be at least some type of program that will assist in educating the

child and family of how to treat or prevent obesity.
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According to the question of “Is it always the case, as I have been suggesting, that these

companies are able to provide markets and physical activity resources that are available,

accessible, and affordable?” I would point out that consumer focus helps marketers anticipate the

demands of consumers, and production focus helps them respond to changes in the market. This

result reveals that areas where consumers are in high demand for grocery places, companies will

make their move to place their organization there. In order to market food products, an

organization may need to know if products will satisfy needs than competitors do. This is off

balance because these low-income communities whom are lacking grocery stores in the first

place, will not have any organizations competing against one another. They will be making a

healthy move and may even earn more money. Another reason food companies can make an

impact on low-income communities is that they are able to market certain food products that will

suit the geographical and cultural setting. By doing this, it will attract more consumers and

eventually have a steadily increase in more jobs and a better economy for that certain

community.

To conclude, I strongly believe making food resources like Farmers Markets, Food

Cities, and YMCAs, will make a change for obesity for a family and child since the child is taken

cared of by their parents. In addition to the grocery stores and physical activity resources, there

must also be an intervention program to help make vulnerable communities acceptable toward a

healthy change. They will have the resources needed to help make the changes and the support

needed by experts in nutrition and physical activity. The solution to prevent and treat obesity is

bound to happen.
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References

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G. Shaibi. (14 May 2012) Effects of a Culturally Grounded Community-Based

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