Childhood Obesity and the Role of Social Work in Behavioral Health Care
Friday, January 17, 2014: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon B, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Health and Disability
Amy L. Ai, PhD, Florida State University,
Stephanie Grace Prost, MSW, Florida State University and
Sara E. Groff, MSW, Florida State University
Background and Purpose: A pandemic is sweeping across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate the prevalence of obesity in the child and adolescent population has tripled over the past 30 years. Obesity is the now the most common nutritional condition diagnosed in children. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; NHANES, 2012) estimates that 31.7% of children and youth in the United States exceeded the “overweight” range in 2008. Of these, about 12.5 million children and youth were obese. These rates are higher among the economically disadvantaged subgroups such as African American and Hispanic children and youth. Childhood and youth obesity increases risks for a variety of deleterious physical and psychosocial concerns including hypertension, diabetes, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Although sources of childhood obesity may include biological factors such as genetics, interactions between environmental sources can also shape the propensity to developing problems with weight gain including familial, community, and school level influences. We have undertaken a review focused on interventions aimed at family, school, and community-based interventions (randomized controlled trials) and their rates of reducing child and adolescent obesity. Implications for Social Work Practice, Policy, and Research: This roundtable discussion thus aims to offer insight related to multiple factors that contribute to the childhood obesity pandemic as well as the many roles that social workers may play in practice with the targeted population. The discussion will provide an opportunity for researchers, administrators, policy-makers, and practitioners to engage one another regarding future intervention research, care coordination, psycho-education, and community alignment aimed at adopting healthy lifestyles related to childhood and youth obesity in the United States. As helping professionals, social workers should balance client-centered care within an eco-systemic perspective to include best practices for dealing with psychiatric issues, nutrition, and exercise education. At both micro and macro levels, social workers can contribute to this public and behavioral health area through interpersonal and family practice, community campaigns, and advocacy.