A These populations tend to consume more

A specific
social problem of significance to me is childhood obesity.  The epidemic of childhood obesity is more
prevalent today than ever, particularly among minorities and children living in
poverty.  This stems from a variety of
factors, one of which is a lack of information and resources, especially
inadequate knowledge about nutrition and limited access to nutritious foods in
poor communities.  These populations tend
to consume more affordable, easily accessed processed foods because fresh
fruits, vegetables and whole grain products are generally more expensive.  Research has shown that obesity impacts one’s
biopsychosocial well-being, which in turn leads to a greater socio-economic
divide due to the lack of resources for medical treatment.  Without treatment, many of these obese
children become obese adults who have been stigmatized and may have limited
occupational opportunities yet still carry this financial burden.

As a social
worker, I want to help combat this epidemic through a social justice lens by
developing constructive solutions for children’s home, school, and community
environments that promote overall health and well-being.  For instance, in schools, we can advocate for
nutritious meals and snacks in the cafeterias and vending machines, physical
education classes, and after-school programs that focus on sports, health and
fitness.  At home, we can provide parents
with tools to educate themselves about nutrition, prepare healthy meals, and
limit screen time, particularly television and video games.  In the community, especially low-income and
high-crime areas, we can advocate for nutrition classes at community centers,
urge local governments to create safer neighborhoods where children can play
outside without fear, and establish local farmers’ markets to access healthy
foods.  Just as importantly, we need to
make sure that teachers, parents, healthcare practitioners, as well as children
themselves, understand that language matters; we all need to “weigh” our words
when we talk about weight and body image and emphasize positive reinforcement.

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Although obesity and eating
disorders are distinctive diseases, they both have life-altering effects on the
health and well-being of children and their families.  In addition, the underlying external triggers
can be similar, such as one’s relationship with food and society’s negative views.  Furthermore, obesity can lead to the
development of an eating disorder, an outcome I saw in a fellow patient at my
outpatient treatment center.  As an obese
child she was bullied and teased by her peers and classmates in elementary
school, which, lead her to restrict her food intake and over-exercise to lose
weight.  Her story has stuck with me as I
delve into the social work field – I cannot help but think that if she was
given the resources as a child to live a healthy lifestyle and combat obesity,
maybe she would not have developed an eating disorder.