Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs

Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs
Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs

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Nutrition and physical activity programs

  1. Background 

In the United States, the prevalence of obese and overweight children aged 2–5 years has almost grown three times over the past 3 decades. These increased levels are alarming and a call for action because children who deal with overweight challenged when they are less than 5 years are more likely to be obese later in life, which leads to detrimental health complications (Hesketh et al, 2017). This can be accomplished by implementing nutrition and physical activity programs.Current statistics show that over 13.7 million children and teenagers in the United States are struggling with obesity.

Out of these 13.9 percent is among children aged between 2 and 5 years, 18.4 percent aged 11 and 20.6 percent aged between 12 and 19 years. Most of the families that have been affected include low-income families and those from ethnic/racial minority groups though they are disproportionately affected. During the early years of development physical activity and eating a healthy and balanced diet are crucial for optimum health, development as well as growth (Hesketh et al, 2017).

It is evident that unbalanced diets and the lack of physical exercise increases a child’s risk for obesity and other consequent health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Sadly however, the physical exercise and the diet patterns among the preschoolers, particularly those living under or slightly above the poverty line as well as those from racial/ethnic minorities, do not often meet the national standard guidelines.

As such, there is an absolute need to implement effective interventions so as to help in improving the preschoolers’ physical activities and food programs as well as cultivate behaviors that minimize the chances of being obese and the development of related conditions. 

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Nutrition and physical activity programs

Making intervention plans for children between the ages 0-5 years is a beneficial strategy as it will help to prevent obesity resulting from poor diets, sedentary life, and physical inactivity. In is crucial that the interventions start before a child enters elementary school. Across the United States, about 11 million children aged 5 and below have enrolled in organized care facilities in an effort to minimize the levels of obesity (Elias, 2018).

Research shows that early care and education programs can be very helpful to families and their children struggling with excess body weight and obesity (Kohl, Fulton, & Caspersen, 2011). Strategies that implement practices and policies relating to sedentary behaviours, physical activity, and nutrition have the potential of influencing the health of toddlers, infants, and preschoolers in a positive way through the programs.

Childcare programs create a valuable opportunity were children and parents can learn about the benefits of physical exercise and balanced diet. Currently, over 70 percent of children whose parents are working late hours are enrolled in childcare programs and spend over 40 hours per week exercising which helps them to burn excess calories. 

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Nutrition and physical activity programs

  • Purpose of the study 

There is an alarming number of children in the United States who live in homes where consistent availability of a healthy diets is challenging. Most of them access foods that lead to overweight or obesity while others do not have access to the recommended amount of daily foods and physical exercise. The purpose of this study is to assess child/parental nutrition and physical activity programs within healthcare facilities in the United States. The paper discusses the strategies that can assist healthcare facilities to create and implement successful programs that can address the health and wellness needs of the children and their family members. 

  • Research question 

What initiatives are healthcare facilities in the United States implementing to facilitate child/parental nutrition and physical activity programs?

  •  Significance of the study 

This paper is important because it will help parents to understand the benefits of proper nutrition and physical exercise which will in turn help children to get healthy stay healthy as well as lead healthier lives. The study also informs healthcare facilities about new exercise and diet programs that are beneficial for parents and their children.

This information is very beneficial because it will help to reduce the increasing number of children who battle over overweight and obesity as well as other condition such as diabetes and blood pressure. 

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  • Methodology 

This paper is a qualitative paper that uses secondary materials to summarize recommendations about obesity prevention programs based on reviews from expert guidance from secondary sources such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and the Institute of Medicine among others. 

Nutrition and physical activity programs

  •  Literature Review

According to Smith et al (2017), healthcare providers as well as organizations should seek to implement more holistic goals in their roles as public health leaders. Specifically, healthcare facilities hold a significant responsibility to the employees, patients and the public as they are expected to be role models as they provide public health and also act as infection control agents and health promotion advocates.

Through the integration of such practices into the health organization’s operations, healthcare institutions and provides can achieve their duties as professional and take advantage of their unique positions to create change in health behaviors. The widespread challenges concerning overweight and obesity have detrimental consequences on mortality and morbidity due to hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypercholesterolemia among other diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts that across the US, 69.2 percent of adults between the ages of 20 years and above are overweight, 35.9 percent are obese (Rothstein, 2014). More so, 18.0 percent children between the ages of 6 and 11 years and 18.4 percent of teenagers aged 12 to 19 years are obese. The CDC argues that poor diet contributes heavily to obesity and it is very crucial for overweight and obese parents and children to break unhealthy eating habits and to adopt new ones that promote a healthy body.

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Norman, Zeebari, Nyberg, and Elinder (2019) argue that healthcare institutions and providers have the ability and opportunities to play a symbolic and direct role so as to help patients in adopting improved nutrition and better diet by providing healthy food as well as drinks at the institution. Sadly, instead of providing healthy diet options, some healthcare facilities, which include pediatric hospitals, actually allow fast-food restaurants to sell food within their facilities.

For instance, most hospital organizations have restaurants such as McDonald’s, and some facilities have three to four fast-food restaurants. In these restaurants, the chief patrons include workers employed by the healthcare facility and other guests (Rothstein, 2014). It is essential to however provide more tasty and nutritious food to patients and to ensure that the cafeterias are selling healthy food.

A fast-food restaurants symbol in a healthcare facility is vulgar and unmistakable today. With the current alarming levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac diseases hospitals cannot afford offer silent support to the public and encourage patients to eat at fast-food outlets that do not provide healthy food choices. 

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According to Rothstein (2014), one does not have to get the full fast-food menu to realize some of the “comfort value” prices offered by some fast-food restaurants. After the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital closed McDonald’s, it opened a food service that provided milkshakes for its pediatric patients. Nonetheless, it is true to say that healthy food option are often more expensive as compared to fast-food restaurants.

As a result, to establish and maintain a healthy food restaurant within the facility will require the hospital additional income and also the number of employees who are low-income workers, patients, and visitors may be significantly subsidized.  Most hospitals therefore allow fast-food restaurants so that the can gain more profit (Rothstein, 2014).

However, optimizing profits should not be a justification for establishing fast-food restaurants within a healthcare facility just as it would be unfathomable to install a cigarette machine in the hospitals’ lobby. Over the years Healthcare organizations have been in the forefront and led campaigns to ban smoking on their facilities. It would be recommendable if they also took control of the types of foods and drink sold to the children and parents who visit the hospitals every day with the same leadership valor they showed in cigarette cessation.

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Another leading factor that had contributed to obesity, particularly among children, is the lack of physical exercise. Physical exercise refers to any form of activity that is structured, planned, as well as repetitive. The main aim for exercise is improving as well as maintaining a healthy weight and the components of physical fitness. Exercise can include activities such as body composition, anaerobic and aerobic capacity, strength, muscular endurance, and power, balance, and flexibility all of will in turn help to reduce excessive weight and obesity.

Some of the structured activities that a person can engage in may include conditioning programs to improve muscular strength, running programs to enhance aerobic capacity and lose fat, or stretching programs with an aim of increasing joint flexibility. Exercise activities are divided into resistance exercises that involve the musculoskeletal system and cardiorespiratory exercise that involves the respiratory and cardiovascular system. 

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The main purpose for resistance exercises is developing neurological, physiological, and biochemical components in the skeletal muscles while cardiorespiratory exercises take into consideration the dynamics of the whole body particularly in exercises that involve large skeletal muscle mass. According to Floriani and Kennedy (2008), the intensity of resistance and cardiorespiratory exercises are expressed in either relative or absolute terms.

Absolute exercise intensity is expressed in terms of kilocalories or kilojoules and is determined by the total energy expenditure. The decimal system that is internationally agreed upon is 1 calorie=4.18 kilojoules. In essence, a kilojoule refers to a unit of energy that is equivalent to 1000 joules. 1 joule refers to the total amount of energy needed to accelerate a kilogram of mass at the rate of 1m/sec.  Kilocalories are a unit of measurement equivalent to 1000 calories.

A calorie refers to the total amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. Relative exercise intensity can be defined as activities that are relative to a person’s maximum capacity to undertake a certain exercise. 

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Most healthcare organizations and facilities receive hundreds of clients, patients, visitors, and staff members on a daily basis. Instead of installing video games and television on the hospital walls, the facility can have playground areas as well as gymnasiums that these individuals, particularly employees and their children can use (Rothstein, 2014).  Where establishing such a facility is not possible, the hospital can provide opportunities for minimal exercises such as walking grounds and climbing stairs.

In most healthcare institutions across the United States, the only way of reaching various destinations is by using a lift. In some facilities located within multipurpose complexes, it is almost impossible for employees and others to find their way across buildings because the pavements are badly constructed, the lighting is insufficient, or there are structural obstructions (Rothstein, 2014).

Given that healthcare institutions act as employers of millions of healthcare workers across different occupations, they have a responsibility to offer maximum quality and efficient wellness programs that offer weight management programs, smoking cessation, food education programs and other services concerting physical wellness. Healthcare organizations ought to make exercise facilities as well as the workout equipment readily available for all its stakeholders. 

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Hospitals such as Jersey City Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, support their healthcare practitioners to achieve healthy lifestyle goals. One of these initiatives included noting the healthy foods and calories that the medical center sells at the hospital cafeteria. According to Bopp (2016), employers should partner with other health organizations to offer Healthy Wellness Programs. It is recommended that these programs should be fun, interactive, engaging, and also accessible online through mobile phones.

The employees should choose activities based on their personal goals and as per recommendations and earn rewards for making positive, healthy choices. The employees should also be encouraged to involve their families in the program, as there is a probability that families focused on health will be more successful. Hospitals and all healthcare centers should emulate the above named hospitals to maintain their employees fit and happy.

In accomplishing this, they should employ several useful initiatives, which may include programs on opium use, exercise programs, and tobacco addiction counseling programs aimed at lowering the risk of cancer, obesity, heart and mental diseases (Tu, O’Connor, Baranowski, & Mâsse, 2017).

They should also offer healthy food options to their employees as well as providing discounted rates at gyms and fitness centers to ensure that their employees do exercises regularly. For healthcare organizations that do not have enough space, particularly in older organizations, the management can make arrangements and partner with other wellness facilities to allow cost-free, convenient, or subsidized-cost access to off-site activities.

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Hospitals also have a responsibility of educating their patients on how to access and make use of various online exercise programs and diet programs found on different websites. In the Internet Age, healthcare facilities should integrate patient education with technological advancements that can help the patients as well as employees to benefit substantially from the information offered online (Daniels, & Hassink, 2015). Given that not all websites are genuine, the healthcare facilities should help the stakeholders to assess the credibility of the evidence provided.

Some of the means that the healthcare facility can use include investigating the credibility of the author and publication of the evidence and assessing whether author is expert in the nutrition and exercise field. Sometimes, individuals with great interest in nutrition and exercise can write articles or open YouTube channels though they do not have any educational background in nutrition or exercise.

These websites may seem very attractive as they promise exponential changes but disappoint exercisers in the long run as they are not based on scientific evidence. The healthcare providers can therefore assist patients dealing with diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, and overweight to examine the evidence provided to support the nutrition choices as the best choices demands one to have some background knowledge about exercise and nutrition.

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It is impossible to blush off the impacts that healthcare practitioners as well as health plans have on the choices that parents make for themselves and their love ones including children. In the present information-loaded world, where individuals bombard daily with health nutritional and exercise messages, it is hard to differentiate credible information from the misleading ones. As such, credible, useful, and evidence-based information is lost in the static and 24-hour news cycle of websites. Educating patients and employees on how to use various exercise and nutritional websites such as BodyFit,

Calorie King, FitnessBlender, Fit Men Cook, and Ace Fitness database will help nurses and other practitioners to provide patient education. The workout plans as well as the nutrition information offered by such websites help with training, fat loss, and cardio training among others. The instructional videos provided in workout website covers over 3,000 exercise activities and help an exerciser to avoid injuries.

The how-to-images provided in the website provides the exerciser with thousands of workout pictures that show them how to do a certain activity with precision even before they begin exercising. The website also provided step-by-step instructions that help an exerciser to do the right thing every time. 

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A website such as Calorie King for instance can be used to find nutrition facts on foods from different food chains and supermarkets (Borushek, 2013).  This can be helpful for tracking macros and calories. This database incorporates nutritional data from credible brands in the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom. The website provides nutritional information and effects regarding breakfast bars and cereals, alcoholic drinks, beverages, breads and cookies, and baked goods.

It also provides information about chocolates and other supplements, cheeses, creams, and yogurts, desserts, and animal protein products. Lastly, there is information about vegetables and fruits, fast foods, fats and sauces, packaged and frozen foods, grain foods, snacks, sugars and syrups (Borushek, 2013). Apart from foods, the website also provides information regarding body mass index (BMI) and how to calculate it.

According to calorie King Website, when the BMI is 25 and above, a person is either overweight or obese and risks conditions such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some cancer forms, and high blood pressure. This site however cautions against the use of BMI because it does not differentiate between muscle and body fat. For instance, in athletes, the BMI can overestimate the body fat due to the muscular build or underestimate body fats in older people who have lost their muscles.

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Nutrition and physical activity programs

  • Conclusion and recommendation 

Conclusively, health organizations that do not offer well-being programs expose their employees and patients to high risks obesity, diabetes, addiction problems, and mental problems among others. Organizations that provided one to two wellbeing programs experience very low rates of employee turnover as compared to companies that implement a minimum of five programs.

When healthcare facilities provide such programs for employees, patients, and other stakeholders, the offer them a channel to relieve stress as well as receive beneficial information regarding how they can take care of themselves as well as their family members.  In the 21st century, healthcare workers are expected to learn about new technologies all the time, be innovative and creative, adhere to new policies and regulations, as well as provide patient-centered services.

As a result, these employees become very tired and unavailable emotionally to the point where they lack of empathy for their patients and medical mistakes increase. To overcome these challenges, medial organizations are encouraged to offer wellness programs such as fitness facilities, counseling, educational programs, workshops, and health food programs to ensure that employees reach their intrinsic goals. 

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Bopp, S. (2016). Promoting the Health of Employees. Retrieved from:

Borushek, A. (2013). The CalorieKing Food and Exercise Journal.

Daniels, S. R., & Hassink, S. G. (2015). The role of the pediatrician in primary prevention of obesity. Pediatrics136(1), e275-e292.

Elias, P. H. (2018). Care Providers’ Perceptions in Promoting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in the After-School Setting.

Floriani, V., & Kennedy, C. (2008). Promotion of physical activity in children. Current opinion in pediatrics20(1), 90-95.

Hesketh, K. R., O’Malley, C., Paes, V. M., Moore, H., Summerbell, C., Ong, K. K., … & van Sluijs, E. M. (2017). Determinants of change in physical activity in children 0–6 years of age: a systematic review of quantitative literatureSports medicine47(7), 1349-1374.

Kohl III, H. W., Fulton, J. E., & Caspersen, C. J. (2011). Assessment of physical activity among children and adolescents: a review and synthesis. Preventive medicine31(2), S54-S76.

Norman, Å., Zeebari, Z., Nyberg, G., & Elinder, L. S. (2019). Parental support in promoting children’s health behaviours and preventing overweight and obesity–a long-term follow-up of the cluster-randomised healthy school start study II trial. BMC pediatrics19(1), 104.

Rothstein, M. A. (2014). Promoting public health in health care facilities.

Smith, T. M., Blaser, C., Geno-Rasmussen, C., Shuell, J., Plumlee, C., Gargano, T., & Yaroch, A. L. (2017). Peer Reviewed: Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies and Practices in Early Care and Education in Three States, 2014–2016. Preventing chronic disease14.

Tu, A. W., O’Connor, T. M., Baranowski, T., & Mâsse, L. C. (2017). What do US and Canadian parents do to encourage or discourage physical activity among their 5-12 Year old children?BMC public health17(1), 920.

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