Compare and Contrast Different Analyses of the ‘Obesity Crisis’ Allegedly Facing Britain
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Obesity refers to overweight and occurs when the Body Mass Index (body weight divided by height) exceeds 30. Obesity is one of the primary causes of death and a contemporary social and health issue facing the United Kingdom. Poskitt and Edmunds (2008) assert that obesity is a major factor that contributes to other diseases such as liver disease, cancers, injuries, and depression. The UK is facing a crisis which is related to inactivity and poor eating habits.
Some of the causes of obesity are the excessive intake of high-calorie foods, lack of physical exercise, genetic factors, sedentary behaviours, insufficient sleep, and maternal smoking by pregnant mothers.
According to Haralambos and Holborn (2008), obesity is represented in the UK mass media as both a health and social issue that is affecting society. Although genetic factors and old age may contribute to the risk of obesity, some public policy analysts believe that obesity is a personal issue since it can be managed by appropriate dietary habits and physical exercises.
Shaw e t al. (2007) points out that obesity results in negative social and psychological effects since it leads to low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. The paper will critically compare and contrast the different analyses of the ‘obesity crisis’ that is facing Britain and determine if it is a health issue or a personal issue. The paper will argue that obesity is a structural issue and the NHS should treat people perceived to be obese.
Background of the Obesity Crisis
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 28 % of the adult population in the UK suffers from obesity and 62 % of the adults living in England are obese according to the body mass index criteria. Mukherjea (2010) outlines that the NHS statistics show that more than 10 percent of the first-year children in the UK are obese and the national percentage of obese children has risen by 21.9 %.
Obesity is a key factor responsible for health inequalities in the UK as South Asian immigrants have higher rates of obesity and a higher risk of stroke in the entire population. According to available data, obesity is higher in the age group of between 55 and 64 years. Obesity is high in urban areas than in rural areas due to sedentary lifestyles.
According to medical experts, the rate of obesity is predicted to reach one-third of the entire UK population in the next three years if measures are not undertaken to address the current situation (Gillman & Poston, 2012). Vora and Buse (2012) believe that clinical management of obesity in the UK concentrates on secondary prevention as it has neglected the evidence-based approach of tackling obesity.
The UK medical databases show that only 70 percent of primary care patients are screened for their weight and height during hospital admission. The UK spends approximately 6 billion Euros on the management of overweight and a further 10 billion in handling conditions related to obesity such as diabetes.
The Causes of Obesity
The existing medical research demonstrates that behavioural, genetic, and hormonal factors determine the likelihood of developing obesity. The genetic factors may lead to energy imbalances that contribute to overweight since they affect the storage and distribution of fat in the body.
Bradshaw (2016) argues that genetics also affect the rate of conversation of fat within the body and the burning of energy calories within the body. For instance, clinical tests have shown that leptin will affect fat regulation by signaling brain hormones. According to Gard and Wright (2005), obesity results from overeating and diets that have high carbohydrates, and thus it is a moral issue.
Barnett and Kumar (2009) argued that the overeating of fatty diets and sugary foods will lead to weight gain while carbohydrates will lead to weight gain. Gillman (2008) argues that obesity is a disease associated with the rich since they have the disposable income to purchase tasty and fatty meals.
According to this analysis, obese people should bear the burden of the disease since they are personally responsible for the weight gain. On the other hand, some media channels outline that obesity is linked to poor social-economic factors since poor citizens mainly consume diets rich in carbohydrates. Smedley, Dick, and Sadhra (2013) conclude that the low social economic populations consume simple sugars like desserts, unlike complex carbohydrates that improve the body metabolism rate.
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Accordingly, medical conditions increase the risk of obesity, and thus it should not be perceived as a personal issue. According to Gill (2014), diseases such as insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s syndrome influence the development of obesity since the thyroid may not produce enough hormones that will facilitate body metabolism and breakdown of fat in the body.
Cushing’s syndrome will lead to excessive steroid hormones that will lead to weight gain. In this case, it is wrong for the mass media to continue stereotyping obesity as a personal choice. There are underlying medical conditions that can cause the problem. The NHS should carefully diagnose obese people for the underlying causes and treat the patients.
According to Linsley, Kane, and Owen (2011), some medications have side effects that may cause obesity in clinical tests, such as antidepressants and corticosteroids. Individuals who have mental illness and epilepsy may develop obesity due to the side effects of the medication. In this case, the underlying cause of the problem is not individual, and measures should be undertaken to control the adverse effects of the medication.
Another factor that contributes to the obesity crisis in the UK is the lack of physical exercise since most people use their cars and only a few engage in cycling activities. Williams and Fruhbeck (2009) outline that obese people are considered sedentary and lazy, and the public perceives the inactivity due to the general desire to undertake physical exercises or any other manual duties that contribute to weight gain.
The NHS recommends people participate in moderate to intense physical activities such as walking and cycling for at least two hours each week. Bradshaw (2016) asserts that obese people are blamed for their weight gain, thus leading many to perceive social isolation and reduce their interactions in society.
Shaw e t al. (2007) argues that psychological problems can contribute to obesity since stress and emotions influence eating habits. Sociologists assert that people will eat excess food in response to sadness, boredom, and anger. According to Giddens and Sutton (2016), the structural explanation of obesity outlines that the British consumer culture encourages the population to engage in poor dietary habits since the laws do not control packaged foods’ fat and sugar levels.
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Sociological Effects and Importance of Appearance
Gard and Wright (2005) believe that the physical appearance determines the extent of the physical attractiveness of an individual to others, and there is an increase in discrimination and prejudice towards people perceived as not physically attractive. Obesity is linked to feelings of shame and guilt. The close relationships with parents and peers in society facilitate socialisation while the bodyweight is a moderator of social behaviour. The researches have demonstrated that girls are more likely to experience psychological problems than boys since they care more about their physical looks.
The psychological problems originate from the weight-related teasing and joke on the physical and mental abilities of the obese person. According to Giddens and Sutton (2016), obesity can contribute to a decline in social acceptance in groups and discrimination in employment since the physical appearance of obese people is perceived as undesirable in some professions. For instance, firefighters in Britain are expected to be physically fit to engage in extraneous tasks, and thus obese individuals may not be employed in those duties.
The mass media reinforces the stereotypes that fat people are undesirable and outlines that such people require dieting to reduce weight. Surprisingly, the cause of the weight gain may be unrelated to diet habits. Guthman (2011) pointed out that obese people suffer from the need to attain the ideal body weight and engage in risky activities such as skipping meals and fat removal through cosmetic surgery to achieve their desired physical body image.
Pop culture depicts tall and slim girls as beautiful, and thus obese girls struggle to shed off the excess body fat. According to Gilman (2010), men with muscular bodies are perceived as more desirable and handsome. Thus obese men will experience psychological problems to reduce their weight and achieve the idealized body physique.
Accordingly, obesity lowers work achievement since most affected people find it stressful and difficult to carry out manual work requiring walking. According to Birch and Parker (2012), obesity is perceived to influence cognitive changes since studies have indicated that obese teenagers have few automatic thoughts compared to lean teenagers.
In this case, sociologists argue that obese teenagers have dysfunctional conditional beliefs regarding physical exercises and eating, unlike normal-weight teenagers. The studies show that physical fitness improves the cognitive functioning and the academic performance of the individual.
Another notable effect that is advanced by the mass media is the sexual problems that may result from obesity. Akabas, Lederman, and Moore (2012) argue that the research on the relationship between sexual performance and obesity is not conclusive, but sociological studies on marriage outline that obese people find it difficult to get a spouse due to their overweight.
The NHS has banned smokers, and obese people from routine surgery, and the proposals have attracted mixed reactions from different interest groups and the UK media. The main debate is whether obesity is an illness or a moral issue that results in a self-induced condition. The proponents of treatment outline that underlying genetic and medical conditions will contribute to the condition while the opponents of treatment outline that the ban is essential in promoting healthy lifestyles among the population (Gilman, 2010).
The NHS should treat all obese people without discrimination since genetic factors and medical conditions increase the risk of obesity. According to Drewnowski and Rolls (2012), the denial of treatment is against the NHS principles that require fair and equal treatment of all the patients regardless of their health condition. In this case, the NHS should not consider the background and lifestyle of the patient in determining the nature of treatment since it is important to ensure the patients are aware of their unhealthy habits (Saguy, 2012).
The proponents of the denial of treatment of obese people by NHS outline that the health condition is a moral issue and affected patients are aware of the consequences of their unhealthy eating and smoking habits. According to the argument, the UK commits about 8-9 % of the country’s gross domestic product to the health sector, and thus the increase in obesity cases will call for an increment in the budgetary allocation. Gill (2014) suggested that the treatment of obesity is critical since it contributes to other related diseases like heart and liver diseases that are more costly for the NHS to fund.
The NHS should fund the treatment of obese people since there is nothing many patients can do about their inactive thyroids and the side effects of other medications. Although many could argue that obesity is a self-induced condition, it is unfair for NHS to ration the treatment since the health problem is a leading cause of death in the country.
Birch and Parker (2012) point out that the denial of treatment will shock the high number of people already catering for their own medical expenses. The six months optimising period can be interpreted as a ban or denial of treatment, and thus, it is not effective in encouraging the population to participate in healthier lifestyles. According to Hansen, Joshi & Dex (2010), the existing studies have demonstrated enhanced awareness of the dangers of unhealthy lifestyles is more effective in ensuring behaviour change among the population.
According to the libertarian perspective, the population should be free to make healthy choices, and the state intervention should only aim to reduce the harm. In this case, the role of the government should include the implementation of policies that will control the sources of the risk factors and not the denial of treatment. Wolin and Petrelli (2009) note that the UK government should introduce higher taxes for sugary foods and create incentives for breastfeeding mothers.
There is a need to redesign the sales levies for sugary and salty foods to ensure a reduction in consumption. Although the UK has implemented voluntary salt reduction initiatives, the tax increase is more efficient in controlling the consumption volumes, as evidenced by the case of France that has maintained to keep the rates of obesity down through salt and sugar levies.
Garde (2010) argues that the EU legislation on nutritional labeling of the food products requires the manufacturers to specify the saturated fat, sugars, proteins, and energy is appropriate in reducing the health problem. The UK has launched a labeling scheme that is easy to understand for the target consumers since it outlines the nutritional information on the product label. Williams and Fruhbeck (2009) point out that there is a need for stringent regulation of the advertisement of sugary products towards children since the statistics show that more children are getting obese due to the consumption of unhealthy beverages.
The ‘obesity crisis’ in Britain has witnessed intensive media debate on the possible ban of treatment of obesity by the NHS. According to the research, obesity results from genetic, behavioural, and structural factors such as genes, medications, physical inactivity, and unhealthy lifestyles. The health condition has increased the medical costs incurred by NHS and is a risk factor for diabetes.
According to the analysis, obesity results from different genetic and lifestyle factors and thus should be treated by NHS. The failure to treat obesity will increase the related health conditions and contribute to the overall increase in the health budgetary allocation by the government. The failure to treat obesity will affect the country’s quality of labour force, thus affecting the future economic productivity of the country.
The measures to control the obesity crisis in Britain should entail controlling the nutritional content and labeling of fast foods and reducing the exposure to advertisements to young children. It is important to invest in parental education to ensure the parents monitor the nutritional content of diets provided to young children. The public should be encouraged to engage in physical exercise, while the school should have co-curriculum activities that include moderate to intense physical exercises. The working class should consider cycling to work, and the town planning should provide adequate green spaces for physical activity.
The decision to deny treatment would amount to discrimination since obesity is high among South Indian groups and individuals living in urban areas. The NHS constitution prohibits discrimination of the patients and aims at attaining high-quality healthcare, and thus NHS should finance the surgeries of obese people. Obesity leads to a decline in self-esteem due to social isolation and perceptions of physical attractiveness. In this case, obesity affects child development due to feelings of shame and guilt.
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