Role and Responsibilities of Community Health Educators
Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They collect data, design, and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities within a specific geographical area. Typically, as a health educator, my roles and responsibilities include the following. Firstly, assess the needs of the people and the communities of Zapata County, in Texas. Secondly, develop education programs and events for the Parent Teacher Organization, to teach about childhood obesity and ways to cope with or manage existing obesity health conditions. Thirdly, work with parents and teachers to help affected families find health services and information about childhood obesity. The other role involves conducting an evaluation and research related to the Childhood Obesity health education program and presents the findings with the other health educators and communities to help improve future efforts.
As specified by the United States Bureau of Statistics (n.d), community health educators work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, non-profit organizations, and private agencies. Consistently, I will provide training programs for other stakeholders such as private health agencies, health professionals, non-governmental health agencies, and community health workers.
In my role as a community health educator, my specific goal is to sensitize the community in Zapata County, Texas, through Parent Teacher Organization about childhood obesity. More specifically, the program seeks to create awareness about childhood obesity focusing on promoting a healthy lifestyle to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity in Zapata County, Texas.
Public Health Issue
Childhood obesity is increasingly common globally and associated with comorbidities in childhood and adulthood. Various risk factors are associated with the nation’s overall increase in obesity. Some of the behaviors that influence excess weight gain include intake of a high-calorie diet, low-nutrient foods, and beverages, inadequate physical activity, living a sedentary lifestyle and abnormal sleep routines (“Texas State Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Profile,” 2016). Statistics also indicate that the prevalence of obesity in the United States is significantly high. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, for children and adolescents between 2 and 19 years, the prevalence of obesity was at 18.5 percent and affected at least 13.7 million children and adolescents. Among 2 to 5 year-olds, obesity prevalence was 13.9 percent, 18.4 percent among 6 to 11 year-olds, and 20.6 percent among 12 to 19 year-olds (“Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States,” n.d). Importantly noted, childhood obesity is more common among certain populations. For instance, Hispanic 25.8 percent and non-Hispanic blacks at 22.0 percent had a higher prevalence of childhood obesity as compared to non-Hispanic whites at 14.1 percent. In Texas, 16.3 percent children between the ages of 2 to 4 years enrolled with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were overweight. Among this population, 15.9 percent had obesity (“Texas State Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Profile,” n.d). A study carried out to assess the trends and disparities in the prevalence of childhood obesity in South Texas indicate that, Hispanic children experience higher levels of obesity at 25.3 percent as compared to their white counterparts at 16.6 percent and black peers at 18.2 percent (Foster, Maness, & Aquino, 2017).
Impact of Childhood Obesity
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Texas, with more than one in three children being overweight with an increasing chance of becoming obese in adulthood. The prevalence of childhood obesity has various impacts. For instance, according to the CDC, the immediate health risks of childhood obesity include the development of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and orthopedic conditions among others in adulthood. The development of these chronic diseases has several health implications leading to heavy financial consequences, which have affected the Texas economy and health-care system. A report by DSHS in Partnership with Texas Department of Agriculture (n.d) indicates that, by 2040, health costs related to overweight and obesity could be as high as $39 billion in both direct and indirect costs (“The burden of overweight and obesity in Texas, 2000-2040,” n.d). Definitely, the financial burden will be translated to the community forcing them to pay high tax rates all the way to the local tax rate.
Childhood obesity has several significant health, social, and financial consequences (Sahoo, Sahoo, Choudhury, & 2015). More specifically, overweight children and adolescents have increased the risk of becoming obese in adulthood. Obesity in childhood is associated with severe obesity in life and the development of chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, asthma, and orthopedic conditions among others.
The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States and in Texas remains dangerously high. To reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, community efforts should focus on supporting a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits and active living. The program aims to reduce childhood obesity through a societal process where parents and teachers are involved. The primary target group is children aged 3 to 12 years and their families, with the aim of fostering better and balanced eating habits and engaging in regular physical activities. Virtually, to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, we will design two programs – nutrition education program and physical education program. The nutrition and physical education program will provide knowledge and skills about the relationship between a good diet, physical health, and improved health. The program will address the safe preparation of foods and consumption. Allow parents and teachers to identify barriers to making healthy food choices and offer solutions to the identified barriers. Involve teachers in delivering messages about making healthy diet and physical activity decisions.
The stakeholder involvement seeks to have teachers and parents encourage children to drink water in place of sugar-sweetened beverages and ensure access to free and safe drinking water. Ensure that the available food and beverages are healthy and help children eat foods that meet the dietary recommendations. Limit foods and drinks with added sugar, fat, and salt outside the school lunch program. If children carry packed lunch, sensitize parents to pack healthy and balanced foods and snacks for their children. At school, engage children in physical activities and during school holiday’s parents should ensure children participate in physical activities and do not spend their days watching TV or playing PC games.
To access the effectiveness of the nutrition and physical education program, a combination of various monitoring and evaluation efforts will be set in motion. Among the schools enrolled in the program, BMI score will be used to analyze the effectiveness of the program. In the beginning, the students’ BMI score will be recorded and re-entered 6 months after the program launch. The other method to measure the effectiveness of the program is an observation of increased participation in physical activities and adoption of a healthier diet.
Eradication of obesity does not involve a single or simple solution. It is a complex problem requiring a multifaceted approach and policymakers, state and local organizations, leaders, schools, and healthcare professionals must collaborate to eradicate the problem. Resources are available to help in the fight against obesity and specifically childhood obesity. More specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers funding to all the 50 states to advance the chronic disease prevention and health promotion efforts. In this case, the resources include funding by state granted to both large and small cities and counties, community, and healthcare organizations, as well as tribal organizations. The other resource is the state public health actions (1305) granted to prevent, manage, and reduce childhood obesity among other diseases. The third resource is the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) funds designed to reduce health disparities among minority groups (“State and local programs,” 2018).
Several studies indicate a strong relationship between nutritional education in a school and the overall health of a nation. For instance, in the UK, the national standards for nutrition education have been applied for several years with visible results (Mayor, 2013). Appropriate nutrition education programs provide teachers and parents as well as children with the knowledge and skills. The knowledge acquired helps children adopt healthier diets and increased participation in physical activities in the present and in the future, resulting in the prevention and reduction of childhood and adulthood obesity.
“Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States.” (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
“State and local programs.” (2018). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/state-local-programs/index.html
“Texas State Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Profile.” (2016). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/state-local-programs/profiles/texas.html
“The burden of overweight and obesity in Texas, 2000-2040.” (n.d). Texas Department of State Health Services. Retrieved from: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/uploadedFiles/Content/Prevention_and_Preparedness/obesity/The%20Burden%20of%20Overweight%20and%20Obesity%20in%20Texas,%202000-2040.pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d). Occupational Outlook Handbook, Health Educators, and Community Health Workers. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm
Foster, B. A., Maness, T. M., & Aquino, C. A. (2017). Trends and Disparities in the Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in South Texas between 2009 and 2015. Journal of Obesity, 2017, 1-7.
Mayor, S. (2013). Nutrition education: The way to reduce childhood obesity?. The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, 1(1), 14
Sahoo, K., Sahoo, B., Choudhury, A. K., Sofi, N. Y., Kumar, R., & Bhadoria, A. S. (2015). Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(2), 187-192.
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