Weight Management and Nutrition
Obesity has been identified as a key public health and medical issue in the United States and Western world. Obesity is condition that impacts various demographics, ages, and populations of people. Obesity and weight are are often overlooked as indicators of poor nutrition, food access, excess stress, mental health risk and maladaptive coping. Social workers could partner with public health, psychiatry, nursing, and medical institutions to address the factors that contribute to difficulties in weight management and proper nutrition. Previous efforts, including access to exercise and healthy food across systems, have proven to be helpful in addressing childhood and adult obesity. It is also important for social work and other disciplines to realize the sensitivity of addressing weight with individuals and communities and to keep in mind how health and optimum levels of functioning (not size or actual mass) is the goal for all. Social work can become involved in research for healthy bodies and weight through body image/unhealthy weight prevention efforts starting with children and youth and using biopsychosocial perspectives to devise treatments to address unhealthy adults. Social work can also become involved with engineers and urban planners to identify where individuals have less access to healthy food and safe places to exercise and to create communities and neighborhoods with these resources. Lastly, social workers need the support of policy makers and the justice system to reduce violence and risk of abuse in communities, considering their link with future weight problems and obesity in individuals.