Advocacy Efforts

Childhood Obesity

Over the last three decades, obesity has become a leading global health and economic concern. In global standards, it is estimated that over 170 million children under the age of 18 years are overweight and obese (WHO, 2012). In the United States, childhood obesity has increased alarmingly over the last 30 years, with rates rising from 6 in 11 in 1980 to nearly 1 in 5 in 2012 (Feldman, 2014). The impact of childhood obesity is also reflected in increased health care spending, making it a major economic issue. Several advocacy efforts and campaign initiatives have been launched with the aim of improving children’s diet and exercise. A study by the CDC in 2014 found signs of progress including a 43 percent drop in obesity among children between 2003 and 2012. However, as Feldman notes, subsequent research indicates that findings of the survey could have been overrated as a study carried out in June 2014 found no evidence of a reduction of childhood obesity. Consequently, although there seems to be no progress, research further indicates that some school-based programs have been effective in preventing obesity, as well as policies outside the school, have helped parents make healthier decisions on the diet and exercise of their children. At the center of the fight against childhood obesity, advocacy plays a critically significant role in fighting childhood obesity in the United States. In light of this, we evaluate the role of advocacy efforts in the prevention, treatment, and cure of diabetes, as well as efforts to improve access to health care and fight against discrimination of children from specific demographics that have obesity.

Advocacy Efforts in Childhood Obesity

Advocacy is the act of supporting a cause to influence a change (Karnik & Kanekar, 2014). The act comes in different forms and from various sources such as elected officials, government regulators, insurers, the media, and the public. In the United States, advocates and stakeholders such as the Voices for Healthy Kids in collaboration with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association have taken the initiative to advocate for issues related to childhood obesity have taken up advocacy initiatives (Karnik & Kanekar, 2014). The collaborative effort was to create awareness on the importance of healthy living and to help people take appropriate actions to improve the health of children. In particular, the majority of their initiatives were directed towards addressing policies on the prevention of childhood obesity. Such efforts include increasing taxation of sugary beverages to discourage consumption of sugar among the children. The initiative was influenced by lobbying activities such as the Center for Science in Public Interest through funding to lobby for the promotion of healthier foods to fight consumption of unhealthy foods. Despite opposition from beverage companies, the government was pressured to initiate and implement specific policies targeted at reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods and sugary drinks, which are a contributing factor to obesity. Another initiative was the provision of insurance coverage for prevention of childhood obesity initiated by the former First lady, Michelle Obama through the “Let’s Move” campaign. The focus was to get the contribution of both public and private insurance programs to strengthen the childhood obesity insurance policy. The initiative was successful as Maryland enacted the law requiring insurance coverage to cater for obese children. Consequently, the Affordable Care Act took the initiative at the federal level and pledged $25 million for funding the Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project developed through Children’s Health Insurance Program. The act also took the initiative of providing appropriate guidance to states and healthcare providers in the prevention and management of obesity among children through the provision of services.

Advocates, Stakeholders, and their Role Influencing the Advocacy Process

Advocacy is explained as speaking on behalf of the people with a specific population regarding some issues affecting them. The advocacy efforts can be carried out through an individual, community, state, or national initiative. In the case of childhood obesity, the advocates and stakeholders include Voices for Healthy Kids in collaboration with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association. Other advocates include members of the Let’s Move campaign spearheaded by the former First Lady, Michelle Obama. The major role of the stakeholders is to provide funding to lobby for local, state, and federal support for the implementation of the policy. Advocates lobby support and influence local, state, and the federal government to initiate and implement policies targeted at improving the current state of childhood obesity in the United States. 

Influence of Advocacy Efforts on Current Attitudes and Policies on Issues Affecting Human Services

In recent years, citizen groups can now celebrate their arrival on the lobbying scene, despite being outnumbered by groups representing the elite on issues affecting the delivery of human services. The groups have enabled and empowered people to speak out for themselves (“Advocacy,” n.d). More specifically, with the current wave of advocacy efforts, individuals, as well as communities, are coming out to speak of injustice committed to them or others. Such cases include domestic violence where more people are raising their voice, sexual assault, or cases of human trafficking and thus helping authorities to fight against these issues. Consequently, through their lobbying, advocacy efforts have also provided support to policies and successfully persuaded those in power to support the policies at local, state, and federal levels. For instance, the issue of childhood obesity, with the influence of advocacy efforts, the government took the initiative and implemented policies aimed at reducing the consumption of particular unhealthy foods and sugary beverages (Karnik & Kanekar, 2014). Other ways that the advocacy efforts have influenced current attitudes and policies is by organizing efforts by citizens to impact the formation and implementation of public policy programs by persuading and giving state authorities pressure. Such include efforts such as the youth advocacy groups that have been successfully engaged in improving nutrition and physical activities in schools and neighborhood environments. According to Edwards, Linton, and Sallis (2016), interested youth members come together to create awareness in communities and schools concerning the importance of improving their nutrition and participating in physical activities as a way of fighting obesity.

Evolvement of advocacy efforts in the United States

Ideally, advocacy efforts in the United States started as early as 1787, when organized groups were viewed with suspicion and contempt. According to Valelly, Mettler, and Lieberman (2016), the public was convinced that these groups advanced partial interests with a focus on larger collective groups, which made most people remain uneasy about them. With time, advocacy groups have evolved, and the public has stopped viewing them with suspicion. The growth has been given several theoretical explanations such as social instability, growth in entrepreneurship, and political opportunity structures among others. The argument is that societal affluence creates opportunities for leaders to raise issues and agendas, create competition, and diversification to trigger advocacy efforts. Cultural issues have also contributed to the emergence and growth of advocacy efforts. There is a need to fight against societal injustices, to speak for the voiceless, and to push governments to initiate and implement policies for the collective good of the public. Consequently, technology has played a critically significant role in advancing advocacy efforts. For instance, social media and emails have changed the traditional way of communication, raising awareness, and lobbying for support (“Advocacy,” n.d). Nowadays, advocacy groups can reach out to thousands of people, win their support through the click of a button, and influence government authorities to initiate and implement changes or policies. Advocacy efforts can also easily get funding through various methods such as crowdfunding to support their initiative and push their agenda without financial barriers.

Outcomes of Advocacy Work

Advocacy efforts often bring together individuals who share a common concern regarding a social injustice to influence social change and enhance the accessibility of resources among the marginalized communities. Advocates also provide support and empower survivors of social crimes to help them reach personal goals. For instance, research shows that victims of domestic violence, who are helped by community-based advocacy groups gain greater access to community resources, raise their voice against the vice, and with time experience less violence (Houston, Odahl-Ruan, & Shattell, 2015). Consequently, advocates help survivors of social injustice to navigate through the complex systems in the process of seeking help or justice. In other cases such as the childhood obesity, advocates help push the government in the initiation and implementation of policies aimed at improving the overall health of the community.

This study contributes to the knowledge about advocacy efforts in influencing human service programming and delivery of changes in the society. Virtually, it is clear that advocacy plays a significant role in the fight against social injustices and advocating for better and healthier communities. Nonetheless, despite the importance of advocacy work, it is also important to note that organizations often face several barriers in their work such as shortage of funding and opposition from those against changes in the community. However, by lobbying for support and working together with the communities, advocacy groups can successfully influence change in the society. It is also obvious that tackling issues affecting the community requires a strong will and commitment of various stakeholders as well as coordinated effort to influence change. 

References

“Advocacy.” (n.d). The Advocates for Human Rights. Retrieved from: http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/ch_7_2.pdf

Edwards, C., Linton, L., Sallis, J., Woodruff, S., & Millstein, R. (2016). Development of measures to evaluate youth advocacy for obesity prevention. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 13(1), 1-13.

Feldman, J. (2014). Childhood obesity and policies for prevention: research roundup. Journalist Resource. Retrieved from: https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/public-health/childhood-obesity-policies-prevention-research-roundup

Houston, J.D., Odahl-Ruan, C., & Shattell, M. (2015). Exploring community-based advocacy work against human trafficking in the U.S. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 6(2), 1-17.

Karnik, S., & Kanekar, A. (2014). A narrative review of public health policies for childhood obesity prevention in the United States. Journal of Local and Global Health Science, 2014(1), 1-7.

Valelly, R. M., Mettler, S., & Lieberman, R. C. (2016). The Oxford handbook of American political development. United Kingdom; New York, NY : Oxford University Press.

WHO. (2012). Prioritizing areas for action in the field of population-based prevention of childhood obesity. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/childhood/Childhood_obesity_Tool.pdf

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